Apologies for not posting sooner about Friday night’s Santa Barbara Film Festival appearance by Carol costar Rooney Mara. She sat for a moderately engaging interview with Entertainment Weekly‘s Joe McGovern, who asked some gently perceptive and knowledgable questions, and accepted the Cinema Vanguard award for her Oscar-nominated Best Supporting Actress performance in Todd Hayne‘s Carol. A taped tribute by Mara’s costar Cate Blanchett was shown at the finale, and then Haynes himself presented the award.
Rooney Mara prior to Friday night’s Santa Barbara Film Festival tribute. (Photo shamelessly stolen from the Daily Mail.)
Carol director Todd Haynes, Rooney Mara, Santa Barbara Film festival director Roger Durling.
Mara handled the ordeal as best she could. Yes, it’s fair to use that word. Mara was a good sport. She made every effort to be gracious and responsive, and she definitely smiled from time to time. But you could sense that she regarded the tribute as a kind of gauntlet or courtoom grilling — as a rite of oppression that she had to do. Maybe all actors and filmmakers feel this way, but they hide it better or…you know, they’re not struggling with it as much.
Mara has never been one for jazzy, free-form interviews — her natural inclination is to be chaste if not solemn, and to refrain from comment unless she really has something to say. She’s certainly never submitted to the glib-ironic, casually brain-farty, red-carpet aspects of celebrityhood.
Can I be honest? Mara is not loved by some who have interviewed her previously. She’s regarded as bit of a stiff — smile-less, humorless, wrapped too tight. But that’s okay. Greta Garbo wore this hairshirt this back in the ’30s (“I vant to be alone”) and it didn’t hurt her career or lessen her allure.
Okay, yes, I noticed a few walk-outs during the Mara tribute. (I was out in the lobby for a short period.) I was chatting with a 40ish couple around 9:05 pm, and asked at one point why they were leaving. They said “Uhm, well, you know…it’s almost over.” Translation: They wanted it to be over.
Mara is who she is, and that’s okay. She doesn’t like smiling like an idiot all that much, and I don’t like doing that either…fine. She likes to wear her hair in a tight regal bun, and that aesthetic speaks for itself.
For me there was also the lingering category-fraud thing. Mara does not play a supporting role in Carol. We all know this. The Weinstein Co. wanted both Mara and Blanchett to land Oscar nominations so they split the categories, giving the Best Actress slot to Blanchett. And they succeeded in persuading the Academy to go along with this. Of course, it was Mara’s portrayal of Therese Belivet that resulted in a Best Actress prize from the 2015 Cannes Film Festival jury, and not Blanchett’s performance as the titular character, Carol Aird.
It’s been argued, in fact, that Mara’s role is actually a bit more central than Blanchett’s — that Therese is the emotional inviter or instigator, the on-off spigot, the more active participant, and certainly the character with the arc. My view is that at the very least Mara and Blanchett’s parts are quite equal.
We all know what’s going to happen on Oscar night, of course — The Danish Girl‘s Alicia Vikander will take the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.