Top 10: Best Rooney Mara Performances

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Two-time Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara celebrated her birthday yesterday! One could describe her performances to be quietly powerful, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Mara is magnetizing, reeling you in with the slightest of expression under her breath or turn of the face. She’s worked with indie filmmakers and popular names alike and is an active philanthropist. As she celebrates another year, Awards Circuit is celebrating another year to appreciate her talent. Here are ten of her most notable performances in film.

10“Lion” (2016)
dir. Garth Davis

Garth Davis“Lion” paints the real-life portrait of Saroo’s (Dev Patel) journey home after spending 25 years lost and away from his real family. It was nominated for six Oscars at the Academy Awards and was a critical hit. Rooney Mara stars as Lucy, Saroo’s girlfriend who encourages him to keep searching and find the truth in knowing. Mara’s role is subtle, communicated with ease, and in sync with Patel’s natural ability. In many ways, her character is the support system he needs.

9“Mary Magdalene” (2019)
dir. Garth Davis

Davis may not have reached the intensity and immediacy in “Mary Magdalene” as he did with “Lion,” but the film is still undoubtedly a Rooney Mara showcase. It released last year in the UK and is a 2019 hopeful, domestically. Mara stars as Mary Magdalene and her story of obstacle, persecution, and rebirth are told onscreen. In a baring, subdued performance, Rooney Mara blends comfortably in the role.

8“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (2013)
dir. David Lowery

David Lowery first taps into the acting pairing of Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara in his crime drama “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” In this brooding, patient story of love and contemplation, Lowery’s characters are sewn into the same tone that would later be a success in the incomparable “A Ghost Story.” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” follows the story of an incarcerated man who flees prison and attempts to make his way back to his wife (Mara), who has since given birth to his child. Set in 1970’s Texas, the film explores the lives of these two away from each other and how time affects their love apart. As always, a subtly changing Mara takes center.

7“Her” (2013)
dir. Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze’s “Her” is about a man’s (Joaquin Phoenix) growing relationship with an operating system in a not so near future. Among his lonely strifes is his impending divorce with Catherine (Mara), who decides that he may be incapable of dealing with real human emotions. This stems from Theodore’s growing isolation, something he comforts and confides in with his OS Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Mara, although not a huge role in the film, still sparks through Catherine’s tenacity and bluntness. A small treat from the versatile actress.

6“Song to Song” (2017)
dir. Terrence Malick

In Terrence Malick’s drama, Rooney Mara stars alongside Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, and Natalie Portman in a film set in the midst of the Austin, Texas music scene. Dosed in intertwining love triangles, the film plays like a moody escape into the inner lives of a close group. Mara, along with the cast, digs deep into intimacy, betrayal and the unspoken dialogues we sometimes share unguarded. A Malick film on all accounts, Rooney Mara is at the center of it all.

5“The Social Network” (2010)
dir. David Fincher

“You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole,” utters Mara, in one of the best opening scenes of the millennium. Directed by David Fincher (“Se7en,” “Fight Club”) and penned by Aaron Sorkin, “The Social Network” infused the best and worst of an inflated ego that would create what we know as Facebook. Lauded as a striking film with a quick wit, Sorkin’s dialogue gives every player something to work with.

It was in this film where Rooney Mara would be lampooned into a higher profile. Working with Fincher certainly helps, but Mara quickly shows the world that she can command any scene. She plays the supporting role of Erica, the once girlfriend to Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark. Heady and restrained, Mara’s emotions still pour through her. Mara dumping Eisenberg will never get old.

4“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011)
dir. David Fincher

Rooney Mara teams up with David Fincher once again. Based on the Millennium novels by Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is drenched in the books strong structure. Directed under Fincher, Mara is given the lead role of Lisbeth Salander, an expert computer hacker who aides journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) in a missing person’s case. Mara is as seamless in her performance as her character is in skill. She’s quiet, contemplative, isolating and precise. A remarkable turn fo role for her career at this point, Mara’s performance in this has become somewhat iconic in her filmography.

3“A Ghost Story” (2017)
dir. David Lowery

Grief and the passage of time can be hard themes to come by. In David Lowery’s explorative film about loss, “A Ghost Story, we follow this passage through the perspective of a ghost, a recently deceased man (Casey Affleck). What began as a couple (Affleck and Mara) enjoying the warmth of a new home, quickly turns somber with the death of the man. He returns to the home, now caped in a white sheet, to watch over his wife and mourn his legacy.

Although experimental, the passage of time in Lowery’s film hones its craft and creates an intimate moment of the film involving Mara and an entire pie. Yes, Rooney Mara mournfully chowing down on grief pie is melancholy and catharsis enveloped. The passage of time that switches from loss to legacy is kick-started by the tone of her character. Once inhabited by his love, the house the ghost once knew is left and forgotten, only remembered by those that came after it. Mara flexes her character psychologies once more.

2“Side Effects” (2013)
dir. Steven Soderbergh

In Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects” Rooney Mara gets so much material to work with, exploring the highs and lows of a complex character with subtle intention. Her character Emily awaits as her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is released from prison after doing four years for insider trading. As the couple tries to get back to normality, disarray befalls them, depicting the dark corners of one’s sanity and betrayal. Soderbergh’s film, written by Scott Z. Burns, taps into subjects of depression, anxiety, and human desire. The three don’t coexist so nicely in his film as it simultaneously navigates and exaggerates the potion of all three. Rooney Mara’s performance in “Side Effects” is something unreal and unforgettable.

1“Carol” (2015)
dir. Todd Haynes

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett lit up the circuits in Todd Haynes“Carol.” The drama landed a total of six nominations at that year’s Academy Awards, one for Mara’s supporting role. In 1950’s New York, a young, intuitive photographer Therese (Mara) begins an intimate relationship with an older woman (Blanchett). Deemed unjust by the social norms of the time, Therese and Carol’s closely-knit affair is challenged by the suspicions of Carol’s husband and his objections to her female relationships. Backed by Blanchett’s mesmerizing performance, Rooney Mara is indelible here as her counterpart.

What are your favorite Rooney Mara performances? How would you rank the list? Let us know in the comments section below!

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