Stieg Larsson silently witnessed a gang rape when he was a teenager, and his intense guilt over his complicity made him a lifelong feminist and anti-racism activist. The Swedish author named his greatest creation in honor of that poor woman. But Lisbeth Salander is no victim. She’s such a kick-ass heroine that she has been the saving grace of three overwritten bestselling novels and now four overwrought movies, most recently David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which I had the popcorn-venus pleasure of watching this evening.
Mara Rooney is riveting as Lisbeth — no more or less than Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version of Larsson’s Men Who Hate Women (I confer the mystery its original title). She’s hot and cool and icey and complicated and never warm but miraculously smart, tough, resourceful, and — her downfall — caring. The American version makes her more vulnerable, I think. Still, she’s a Hollywood rarity: “ugly beautiful,” as the French say, until she’s just plain beautiful.