If you’ve read the best-selling Stieg Larsson trilogy, the main reason to go see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is Rooney Mara’s performance as Lisbeth Salander. From the minute Mara appears on screen she embodies the character of the misfit computer hacker with a photographic memory that millions of people, including myself, have envisioned while reading the books.

In a role that requires little dialogue, Mara is riveting in her intensity and manages to convey with her body language and facial expressions Lisbeth’s genius, rage, and hidden vulnerability simmering under the surface. She nails this character so completely that with the arch of an eyebrow, you know exactly what she’s thinking. The costume design and makeup, a crucial element of Lisbeth’s character are outstanding and complete the transformation of Mara into this indelible figure. Continue reading »

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a self-centered, immature, former high school beauty queen and mean girl who still has a malicious streak she wields like a silent blade. Mavis, a young adult fiction writer from a small town in Minnesota should be completely unlikeable. Yet, you can almost admire her single-minded focus on herself except for the fact that it’s probably the basis for much of her unhappiness.

Young Adult is not a warm and fuzzy feel good movie where the central character is gruff on the outside but has a heart of gold on the inside. Mavis does have a heart but it’s a dark, twisted, complicated and human one. Dissatisfied with her mess of a life Mavis travels from Minneapolis back to her hometown of Mercury to reclaim her old boyfriend, Buddy Slade. There’s just one big obstacle in her way—Buddy is married and has a newborn baby. The blank and boring Patrick Wilson, who may be the luckiest man in show business, is well cast here as the appropriately blank and boring, nice, average guy Mavis left behind. Continue reading »

There’s a scene in The Descendants where George Clooney’s Matt King runs to a neighbor’s home, which is supposed to be funny but only serves to show that he is miscast in the role of Matt King, a husband and father of two who has just found out his comatose wife was having an affair. The problem with the scene is that I can see George Clooney acting; straining to run the way he thinks a middle-aged, repressed man would who is suddenly experiencing a moment of spontaneous emotion.

When it comes to George Clooney, I’m in that minor camp of women who doesn’t get why the other 95% of women swoon over him. Which means that when I watch a Clooney film, I judge him strictly on the acting and this time he falls short. There are times when I’ve really enjoyed his work and believed his performance as in Syriana but this isn’t one of them. Continue reading »

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