"What I like about film is it explores imperfections. That was something that really attracted me." MIA WASIKOWSKA
Mia Wasikowska is one of my favorite young actors working right now. Hell, strike young, she's one of my favorite actors period. Ever since first spotting this chick in Greg McLean's killer-croc flick ROGUE back in 2007, then on In Treatment on HBO, the alluring Aussie has made a lasting impression with damn near every genre project she's essayed. Seriously, just consider the run of directors she's worked with in her short-lived career: Burton, Fukunaga, Hillcoat, Zwick, Jarmusch, Park, Cronenberg, del Toro...and that's just in genre! Flicks like ALICE IN WONDERLAND, JANE EYRE, LAWLESS, DEFIANCE, STOKER, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, MAPS TO THE STARS and CRIMSON PEAK are all wildly different in terms of plot and theme, yet are unified through Mia's bold, unflinching performances in each. She's a daring performer with a great eye for choosing projects, which is why we'd be surprised if Mia didn't earn an Oscar in the next decade or so. She's that f*cking good!
So, with CRIMSON PEAK newly released on DVD, join us in giving the lovely Mrs. Mia Wasikowska the AITH Dissection she deserves!
Maybe we're prisoners of the moment, or the most recent, but damn is hard not to think of CRIMSON PEAK as Mia's most impressive outright horror joint. The moody, ambient, sumptuous production design of world-class visionary Guillermo del Toro certainly has a lot to do with that, but to make the movie really resonate, an emotional core must be there to anchor the more gaudy action-set pieces and macabre memorabilia. And that core comes no doubt via Mia's performance as Edith Cushing, the Gothic romantic horror novelist turned unassuming heroine. It's a tricky turn for Mia, as she's tasked with not only playing the straight-woman of sorts, a reactionary character to the showier ones, but also to serve as the main audience conduit. We experience the flick, the huge moldering mansion in particular, through Edith's eyes, and it's up to Mia to not tip her hand too far one way or the other. She must allow the story-beats to remain credible, this in spite of how fantastic and phantasmagoric the genre elements of the film erupt into by the third act. Then, when all the cards are shown and chips shoved to the middle, Mia must convincingly become an ass-kicking, no-shit-taking badass whose dainty facade quickly steels into a physical powerhouse. By no means an easy task, yet with Mia's chops, that's exactly how she makes it seem. Effortless. Natural. Graceful.
But if CRIMSON PEAK is her best starring genre role, then we'd say Mia's best supporting turn comes in Jim Jarmusch's ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE. What a vibrant, sexy, incredibly cool character she gets to play in this one opposite her CRIMSON PEAK costar Tom Hiddleston, as well as Tilda Swinton and Anton Yelchin. As a sultry, seductive rock-star vampiress, Mia gets to showcase an overtly sensual and totally extroverted side of her that we rarely get to see in movies. Normally she plays the shy, reserved type with deep-seeded anxieties and ill-intentions. Not here though. Jarmusch wisely gives her a role against type that really showcases the full range of ability she has. As a result, it's one of the most delightfully memorable turns Mia's given: wild, uncontrollable, sexy, funny, brutal. Go see this flick if you haven't already!
The less said about Tim Burton's illegibly bleary ALICE IN WONDERLAND the better. Through no fault of her own, Mia actually appears quite radiant in the titular lead role, but damn that 2010 trend de jour known as 3D post-conversion. Wow. Despite culling ungodly amounts of cash, ALICE IN WONDERLAND (as seen in 3D) was a headache inducing mess of a movie. Granted, the movie works a little better in standard 2D format, but not by a lot. The computerized cartoon of a movie, an anodyne Disney family affair, never strays from the safety of its color-coated cuteness to address the more sinister subtext of Lewis Carroll's celebrated tome. In other words, aside from the horrible 3D rendering, there isn't enough for Mia to really demonstrate what she can do as an actor. I mean, escaping the clutch of a maniacally grinning cat and a pair of bloated cherubs hardly constitutes thespianism. Perhaps THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS will give her more to reflect upon!
Off the dome, I honestly can't come up with any obvious Wasikowska markers. The porcelain skin, sure, and the pixie haircut, yes, but in terms of acting choices, our girl is all over the map. In her short career, Mia has attempted pretty much every genre there is, every economy of film there is, yet has never repeated a performance in any movie she's made. I suppose now that ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is due in three months, she runs the risk of always being associated with such a grand literary character, but we'd argue her real strength, her true bedrock is her chameleonic nature in front of the camera. Drama, comedy, romance, thriller, horror...the trademark of a great actor is being able and unafraid to try and succeed at them all. At 26 years old, Mia's already more than halfway there!
The two invaluable pearls on Mia's string of genre flicks might just be my two favorite all, CRIMSON PEAK notwithstanding. Seriously, what about working with Chan-wook Park in STOKER and David Cronenberg in MAPS TO THE STARS doesn't appeal?!
I may very well be alone here, but I loved STOKER. Or, more accurately, I loved Mia Wasikowska in STOKER. What's not to love about a sexy fair-skinned 20 something masturbating in the shower to thoughts of homicidal destruction? That's marriage material right there. Seriously, I wanted to propose to Mia right then and there. In the film, she plays a bizarre, alienated young teenager who's supposed uncle (Matthew Goode) mysteriously shows up to her house one day after her father dies. Under the unstable thumb of her troubled mother (Nicole Kidman), India Stoker's behavior grows more erratic and violent as she becomes more and more infatuated with her new family member. I won't spoil the particulars, but damn does Mia show how fearless she is as an actor. She does unspeakably vile things in this movie, and is totally willing and able to pull them off with the utmost credibility. And the thing I love about it is, when asked if she thought taking this role was a daring one, she said absolutely not...that it was a no-brainer based on the part in the script. That it would be daring to say no! That's a wise kid right there!
The other unheralded thriller Mia took part in was Cronenberg's MAPS TO THE STARS, in which she plays a disillusioned aspiring actress willing to do whatever it takes to get a leg up. It's another odd, disturbingly quirky character Mia gets to relish in playing, doing so opposite the great Julianne Moore and more than holding her own as she did against Kidman. What a conniving, duplicitous monster her character Agatha proves to be, a pyromaniac recently released from an sanitarium. She shacks up with another aspiring actor and limo driver named Jerome (R.Patz), and together a mischievous bond is forged that ends up leading to a enraged bout of violence that changes their lives forever. I don't know what it is, but as deplorable as she is in both this flick and STOKER, I can't help be drawn to her like a moth to a f*cking flicker. This is a fine performance in a scathing social commentary on the decay of a decadent Hollywood lifestyle. See it if you've not!
As her talent demands, Mia isn't likely to be out of work for a long, long time. On the impending slate however, she has a star-studded WWII picture called HHhH due later this year, as well as the sequel to Burton's woefully 3D transferred ALICE IN WONDERLAND, which is titled ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. Burton hands the directorial reins over to THE MUPPETS' James Bobin for the sequel, which, if employs the deadpan humor of his Flight of the Conchords TV show, could actually be very entertaining. Then again, anything is an upgrade over the blurry 3D suck-fest that Burton venally capitalized on. Here's the synopsis for the new entry:
When Alice wakes up in Wonderland she must travel through a mysterious new world to retrieve a magical scepter that can stop the evil Lord of Time before he turns forward the clock and turns Wonderland into a barren, lifeless old world. With the help of some new friends, Alice must also uncover an evil plot to put the Queen of Hearts back on the throne.
ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS opens May 27, 2016. Mia joins an all-star British cast, including the dearly departed sir Alan Rickman. One last RIP!
Over the last decade, we can't help but pay undivided attention to what Mia Wasikowska is laying down in the genre realm. This chick f*cking rocks! Whether it's A-list spectacles like ALICE IN WONDERLAND and CRIMSON PEAK, spooky period pieces like JANE EYRE, boldly searing indies like STOKER, MAPS TO THE STARS and ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, etc...this Wasikowska chick has more goddamn range than the NSA. Her diverse acting chops are perhaps matched only by her shrewd script choices, going from high-brow to low-brow, big-budget to small, mainstream to auteur...and delivering one believable turn after another in each. I'm not sure about you all, but we can't wait to see what kind of career Mia fashions for herself moving forward. I love this chick!