Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

When Rooney Mara was nominated for an Oscar for her role of Lisbeth Salander in the American version of The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, I thought it was a one off thing. It was a difficult role and she was good in it. But I did not think much of her. Then, lo and behold, in the last few years since she has emerged as one of the best actors of her generation — in two films in particular, Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects and David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.

Set in Austin, Texas in the ’70s, shot in the atmospheric golden brown late evening light by Bradford Young (he won an award in Sundance), the film tells a tragic love story of a con-couple, Bob and Ruth. As the film begins, there is a terrible incident. A con-job they attempt, accompanied by a friend, goes wrong. The friend is killed and Ruth shoots a cop. To save her, Bob surrenders.

So the plot becomes complicated. Critics have commented that the film, with its near-fatalistic tone, is a part remake of Terrence Malick’s hard-hitting debut, Badlands. It may be true, in its melancholic tone, the elliptical nature of its story-telling… yet, everything here is anchored by Mara’s enigmatic presence. She is alone, waiting for Bob. She has a daughter who is growing up and she is impoverished. To top that there is the cop she shot at who is falling in love with her. Then Bob runs away from prison.

Action-wise nothing much happens. Yet, there is so much happening, and you cannot take your eyes off Mara as Ruth. The other actors are very good – Casey Affleck as Bob, Ben Foster as the policeman and Keith Carradine as the grieving father of the guy who was killed during the blotched con-job, but it is Rooney Mara who elevates the film to the level of a grand tragedy, without even being showy about it. She wasn’t nominated for any awards.

No comments:

Post a Comment