Carol reviews

User avatar
Sonic Youth
Laureate
Posts: 7291
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 8:35 pm
Location: USA

Re: Carol reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Feb 07, 2016 11:50 pm

I saw Carol earlier today, then rushed home for the Super Bowl game. As thrilled as I am that the Broncos won, I think it's fair to say that I found the movie far more thrilling than that game. That's a knock on the game, of course, which was one of the oddest, least thrilling (though far from uninteresting) Super Bowl games I've ever seen. That is not how championship football games are supposed to go down.

The implication of my joke - "I found Carol more exciting than the Super Bowl" - is that the movie is a bore. Unfortunately, everyone I personally know believes that (which is why the joke works among my circle of uncultured friends). I don't. Sure, it's slow and quiet. But when the final scene cut to the closing credits, I felt a rush of adrenaline that I didn't feel for any other 2015 movie except for The Martian (for very different reasons). It is a savory film, and like anything savory it is best lingered over and sampled more than once. I know this is a very special film, but I don't yet know how special because I need another viewing of it. Not because I'm undecided about it, but because I'm sure more intricacies and details will reveal themselves on a second viewing. If I could see it again tomorrow, I would.

That said... I totally get why this didn't get Best Film and Best Director nominations. It's just not the kind of film that's in vogue, at least not in this country. Frankly, the film may have done better if it were in a foreign language and subtitled. We Americans expect our foreign language films to be like Carol, and we appreciate them this way. But we do NOT appreciate films like Carol if they're in English, no more than we would appreciate Pawlikowski's Ida if it were in the English language with an American cast. We expect our films to be loud, dynamic, intense, clever, with a hook to the story that draws us in. And there's nothing wrong with those types of films as long as they're good, but we've been so conditioned to them that we don't know what a quiet, lyrical film is anymore, unless it's subtitled. If it's not subtitled, then it's too slow and too pretentious. Clearly this conditioning has affected too many members of the Academy and have narrowed their tastes. And the same goes for American audiences in general. What a pity.
"What the hell?"
Win Butler

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 14896
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Re: Carol reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:17 am

I was harshly critical of Far from Heaven when I first saw it, largely because of the hype touting its realism when it was really no more realistic than All That Heaven Allows or TV's Leave It to Beaver, but once the hype died down and it could be seen as a purely affectionate homage to Sirk's film I came to appreciate it more. I currently rank it as the fifth best film of 2002 behind Y Tu Mama Tambien, Talk to Her, Chicago and The Hours in which Julianne Moore's 1950s housewife is a more realistic interpretation of housewives of the era.

At the time I was a big fan of Diane Lane's performance in Unfaithful, but I eventually became a bigger fan of Julianne Moore's performance in Far from Heaven, which I now consider to be the best of the year.

I had no such problem in liking Carol immediately. It's one of three films I consider the best of 2015, along with Spotlight and Brooklyn and would be happy to see any one of them win the Oscar. Although I initially put Spotlight at the top of my list,Carol is the one that I keep replaying in my head. It now sits at the top of my list, followed by Brooklyn, Spotlight and Room. Everything else is filler.

Cate Blanchett is an actress I've liked since the mid-1990s, albeit with reservations She's fond of saying "I'm from the stage" and it shows in most of her performances. She always seemed to me like an actress playing a role, not a real person. Although I've liked her well enough to nominate her for my own awards five times in the past, I've never found her to be the absolute best of the year in anything - until now. It seems she's finally learned how to act on screen, giving less to get more. Although I initially liked Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn and Brie Larson in Room more, I've now settled on Blanchett as my absolute favorite over those two as well as Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years and Rooney Mara. They were the year's five best actresses no matter what AMPAS has to tell us on Thursday. Blanchett won't win the Oscar, of course. It will be someone else's turn this year, but she should.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 5857
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Carol reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jan 10, 2016 1:31 pm

ITALIANO wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:I think the reason that last shot is so powerful is that it ends a sequence that is simple in description but full of tiny climaxes. From the moment Therese leaves the party, we wonder...will she get to the Oak Room on time? Will she bother to go in? Will she go far enough into the room, or chicken out and withdraw? Having caught sight of Carol, will she be put off be the crowd around her? Will she stay long enough for Carol to notice her? And what will Carol's response be? For all those tiny moments of doubts to be resolved by Carol's loving gaze -- and for the film to end on precisely that note, and for us to realize, at that moment, it's what the movie is essentially about -- makes for an incredibly powerful moment..



Very true. It is, I'm afraid, a big spoiler for those who still haven't seen the movie (and at least for me part of the emotional impact was due to my not knowing anything about the ending) - but your analysis is accurate and subtle.

Well, I tend to immediately stop reading when anyone mentions plot elements of anything I haven't seen. But, for those who don't, I've amended with a Spoiler Alert.

ITALIANO
Emeritus
Posts: 3798
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 1:58 pm
Location: MILAN
Contact:

Re: Carol reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Jan 10, 2016 11:58 am

Mister Tee wrote:I think the reason that last shot is so powerful is that it ends a sequence that is simple in description but full of tiny climaxes. From the moment Therese leaves the party, we wonder...will she get to the Oak Room on time? Will she bother to go in? Will she go far enough into the room, or chicken out and withdraw? Having caught sight of Carol, will she be put off be the crowd around her? Will she stay long enough for Carol to notice her? And what will Carol's response be? For all those tiny moments of doubts to be resolved by Carol's loving gaze -- and for the film to end on precisely that note, and for us to realize, at that moment, it's what the movie is essentially about -- makes for an incredibly powerful moment..



Very true. It is, I'm afraid, a big spoiler for those who still haven't seen the movie (and at least for me part of the emotional impact was due to my not knowing anything about the ending) - but your analysis is accurate and subtle.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 5857
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Carol reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Jan 09, 2016 9:23 pm

POTENTIAL ENDING SPOILERS

I think the reason that last shot is so powerful is that it ends a sequence that is simple in description but full of tiny climaxes. From the moment Therese leaves the party, we wonder...will she get to the Oak Room on time? Will she bother to go in? Will she go far enough into the room, or chicken out and withdraw? Having caught sight of Carol, will she be put off be the crowd around her? Will she stay long enough for Carol to notice her? And what will Carol's response be? For all those tiny moments of doubts to be resolved by Carol's loving gaze -- and for the film to end on precisely that note, and for us to realize, at that moment, it's what the movie is essentially about -- makes for an incredibly powerful moment.

I saw Carol a month or so ago, and have refrained from writing about it because I felt inadequate to the task -- it's such a jewel of a film, I didn't want to fail it by falling short verballly in conveying its beauty. But since so many are speaking of it (and since it's had such an up and down week, in terms of recognition):

Start by saying I'm more with BJ than Sabin/Italiano on the comparison vis a vis Far from Heaven. I found the 2002 film rhapsodic -- the clear best film of that year; the academic distance others felt, based on its Sirkian variations, didn't stop me adoring it. I loved Carol, too, but in a smaller, finer way -- to me it's chamber music, where Far from Heaven was full-on opera (the score and cinematography contribute to that sense; both are far more lush in the earlier film). This isn't to diminish the current film, which I think is quite beautiful. Probably, for most people, it's more directly moving because it's a love story without distraction. But I was taken more euphorically by Far from Heaven.

Carol has its academic qualities, as well. Much of the film seems a lesson in the meaning of perspective, and Haynes conveys that visually over and over. The film's opening scene is clearly meant to echo the start of Brief Encounter -- one of the most famous "you'll see this later and it'll mean something different" sequences in film history. But we don't even have to get to that late reprise (with its different angles) to understand how the same thing can have different meaning. Even within that opening scene, we get the simple act of Carol placing her hand on Therese's shoulder, and the gentleman friend doing the same, and we know instinctively how different they are (and we can tell, even without knowing the storyline, that it's the same-sex contact that has the higher level of emotional heat).

But perspective is everywhere as a subject -- in Therese's photographs, of course; in the way a seemingly doofy salesman they meet on the road turns into a lethal threat; in the way Carol suddenly reverses herself in the lawyer's office, trying to get Harge to see everything in a different light. And then there's the scene of Carol driving Therese out of the city, through the tunnel: the way the sequence is shot, they might both be hurtling down the rabbit-hole. Which of course in the biggest sense they are.

I've been a great fan of Blanchett's for some time, but there's always the worry that even someone that good will disappoint you by simply being good in the same way, I'd argue Blanchett's performance in Truth falls into that category: she's impressive, as usual, but not that far afield from Jasmine. Here, though, she seems someone different altogether. And she peaks in that lawyer's office scene, where the unexpected turn of the dialogue is matched by Carol seeming to turn into someone new -- someone better than she was before. This scene was totally new territory for Blanchett, and I'm with Italiano: had she not already won two Oscars, her chances of winning another for this would be significant (and deserved, though I'd have a ferocious time trying to decide between her and Brie Larson).

Rooney Mara's performance is played at a lower key; she's young and feeling her way (I loved her delivery on "I don't even know what to order for lunch"), and much of her performance is based on how she reacts to others. Her non-committal responses to her suitor/would-be fiancee tell us that, even forgetting Carol's presence, she knows this guy isn't for her what he thinks he is. (The fact that he keeps calling her "Terry" -- a way she never once introduces herself -- speaks volumes.) I don't think it's a breakout performance, but it's perfect for what the film needs.
Last edited by Mister Tee on Sun Jan 10, 2016 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ITALIANO
Emeritus
Posts: 3798
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 1:58 pm
Location: MILAN
Contact:

Re: Carol reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Jan 09, 2016 5:47 pm

The Original BJ wrote:I had an almost physically emotional reaction to the ending


Me too, and, I noticed, others around me. It's a proof that cinema can still have this kind of almost primordial physical power - despite the fact that today we are surrounded by images everywhere, on tv, pc screens, even mobiles... Yet movies can still be uniquely affecting and effective. And sometimes even just with close-ups. What a great director, let me say it.

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 6790
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: Carol reviews

Postby Sabin » Sat Jan 09, 2016 4:58 pm

Italiano wrote
Music, cinematography, even the editing (which of course nobody will talk about) would deserve nominations.

Carol currently sits atop my personal ballot for all three, but editing especially is what deserves far more mention than it is currently receiving. This is a film where you do not notice its edits at all. And for a film about memory (among other things), this is just so crucial. One image blends into the next which tells the story. While Carol is a gorgeously shot film for sure, its cinematography wins are just as much for its editing.

On a second viewing, Carol melted away my one reservation about the film, and that is Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara don't really have chemistry, an intellectual and spiritual connection to each other. The film doesn't go out of its way to show that one is completing the other like in the great romances. What it's doing instead is showing the both of them at crossroads in life, and suggesting that desiring love is a birthright and a human need, and that giving love, telling somebody you love them, is a gift and it's a way of affirming yourself.

Carol manages to be both devastating and affirming. That's so hard to do.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

The Original BJ
Emeritus
Posts: 3812
Joined: Mon Apr 28, 2003 8:49 pm

Re: Carol reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Jan 09, 2016 4:20 pm

The second time I saw Carol, I had an almost physically emotional reaction to the ending -- the expression on Mara's face, and then the smile that slowly forms on Blanchett's, just gave me chills. It's really a splendidly acted moment by both actresses, and superbly orchestrated by their director.

CalWilliam
Graduate
Posts: 234
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2014 5:35 pm
Location: Principality of Asturias, Spain

Re: Carol reviews

Postby CalWilliam » Sat Jan 09, 2016 4:17 pm

ITALIANO wrote: When I read comments like "boring"or "cold" - not on this board, of course - I really realize how films like Mad Max Fury Road can be dangerous.


Thank you, Marco. I love this film too, and again, your words ARE important and spot-on.
"Rage, rage against the dying of the light". - Dylan Thomas

ITALIANO
Emeritus
Posts: 3798
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 1:58 pm
Location: MILAN
Contact:

Re: Carol reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Jan 09, 2016 3:47 pm

This is - simply - a very beautiful movie - and one that right now (just back home from seeing it) I can't even write about the way I should, definitely not in English. The ending especially is one of the most powerful in recent memory. And, like in Far from Heaven but more than in Far from Heaven (Sabin is right), the combination of intelligence and emotions is a rare, precious one (I don't know how Todd Hayne could be NOT nominated for Best Director). What I found most affecting, I guess, is how the movie, while telling a story which is typical of the period it's set in, trascends the didactic and becomes universal in its meaning and its feelings. When I read comments like "boring"or "cold" - not on this board, of course - I really realize how films like Mad Max Fury Road can be dangerous.
Music, cinematography, even the editing (which of course nobody will talk about) would deserve nominations. And - but here the director has already proved to be an expert - the faces of even the extras are so perfectly 50s.
It's a pity that Cate Blanchett won her first Oscar for The Aviator - this makes a win for Carol impossible. But she's the kind of actress who sooner or later will certainly win a third Oscar. I don't know if she's ever been more charismatic than here though. And nobody with such a character arc - and with such an arresting final shot of her face - as the ones Rooney Mara has in this movie can be even remotely considered Supporting.

User avatar
flipp525
Laureate
Posts: 5582
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2003 7:44 am

Re: Carol reviews

Postby flipp525 » Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:57 pm

Sabin wrote:Kyle Chandler is also terrific as Harge (what a wonderful name!)

I love The New Yorker review which notes that in the name Harge, "somehow, a whole bad marriage is contained in the monosyllabic thud of his name."
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."

-Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 6790
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: Carol reviews

Postby Sabin » Thu Dec 10, 2015 11:19 am

The Original BJ wrote
On the whole, I don't feel that Carol is as emotionally overwhelming as Far From Heaven -- that film just knocked me out at a gut level, whereas my admiration for Carol is of a more intellectual sort.

I disagree. I engaged with Far From Heaven more on an intellectual level whereas I found Carol mostly a shattering experience. For me, it does a better job of combining Haynes' formal mastery and his cinephilia and the result is something more immersive. Maybe I'm just a sucker for films about memory. Or maybe it's because he's working from a script by Phyllis Nagy, who omission at the Golden Globes is unforgivable. The film is visually arresting but the stakes feel very real and always imposing on them. If Rooney Mara is indeed pushed to support it's because Carol's life in many ways is the machine that drives the plot, but it would still be insane. Mara is exceptional but like others on this thread this may be my Cate Blanchett breakthrough. I was no fan of her overly-studied work in Blue Jasmine and while I adore her in I'm Not There (and to a lesser extent, The Aviator), they felt more like fun and games. She's having just as much fun here but for the first time she's in a role that feels fully inhabited. I agree, her lawyer's office scene is a knockout. Kyle Chandler is also terrific as Harge (what a wonderful name!) and both he and Sarah Paulson would be worthy of nominations. I love how Paulson's Abby is so tersely written but her presence is so warm, like her words and nature are locked in battle.

Gorgeous film. Impossible to imagine I'll find a better horse in this race.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

User avatar
flipp525
Laureate
Posts: 5582
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2003 7:44 am

Re: Carol reviews

Postby flipp525 » Sun Dec 06, 2015 7:51 pm

I have to agree with BJ in noting that Blanchett just plows such new depths in Carol, it makes for an extraordinary and very affecting performance. The review posted below really hits the nail on the head in saying that, "Carol’s tale is a quietly heartbreaking one, but it’s a testament to Blanchett’s deeply intelligent portrayal that we don’t realise that for quite some time." It is a very controlled performance but very naturally so. I didn't see the calculated mechanics that some have accused Blanchett of employing in the past.

One scene that hasn't been mentioned yet is in one of the motels when Carol and Therese are trying on perfume. Carol asks to smell it on Therese and when she leans in, Carol just sort of inhales this young woman's essence and gives her neck a brief kiss. It was so sensual and believable.

The final sit-down meeting between the two leads at the Ritz is just breath-taking, a punch in the gut and almost overwhelming in its emotive power. Phyllis Nagy's use of it as a framing device for the entire film is such a smart choice, especially when those two hand-on-shoulder moments are shown and then reappear at the end when we've had the context of the Carol/Therese relationship through which to re-view it. By then, Carol's light touch on Therese's shoulder has accumulated such meaning, it just makes for a very powerful moment. The beauty of the film rests so much on these small cracks in '50s-style restraint where the characters reveal the true longings of the heart. And I think that scene was so successful in laying bare the truth of Their relationship and what it means to both of them. Unforgettable.

I, too, was shocked when the gun appeared and instantly thought of Chekhov. I'm still not entirely sure why Carol would have it with her. Was she planning on possibly killing herself? Did she pack it before Therese had agreed to accompany her on the trip and then simply forgot about it? It added an interesting complication to that section of the movie and I didn't necessarily mind its ambiguity.

It's really unimaginable to me that Rooney Mara could be nominated in support for this film. The two main actresses are absolutely co-leads - it's just unquestionable. Sarah Paulson has the traditional "supporting" performance and, like all the other players surrounding the two lead performances, she is dependably great (as it Kyle Chandler who probably turns in the most surprising performance). In fact, I'd say that all the supporting performances make the two leads shine even more, including a great 11th hour appearance by Carrie Brownstein.
Last edited by flipp525 on Sat Jan 09, 2016 3:50 pm, edited 3 times in total.
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."



-Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Original BJ
Emeritus
Posts: 3812
Joined: Mon Apr 28, 2003 8:49 pm

Re: Carol reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Oct 28, 2015 3:20 am

In keeping with Mister Tee's reaction to this year's Oscar race -- that it feels even more amorphous than usual -- I must say that, now that I've seen Carol, I have no idea how voters are going to react to it. It's certainly way more conventional and less audience alienating a movie than The Tree of Life or Amour, two films which still managed to receive nominations on the high end of expectations. But I could see plenty of regular moviegoers just not understanding what the big deal is here, because Carol is often deliberately paced, and without a ton of plot; I imagine there will be a claque of audience members who just find the whole thing boring.

However, I imagine many folks here will find a ton to admire in it, as I did. The movie as a whole reminded me less of Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce -- the most obvious Haynes correlatives, given the period setting -- and more of Mad Men, in the way story was conveyed less through major events, and more through quiet conversation and small moments, through things said and unsaid. (Or, as Therese's friend mentions when analyzing Sunset Boulevard, moments when characters say one thing, but mean something else.) And then, when big moments do occur, they land with genuine impact -- the moment a gun appeared, in an otherwise very quiet scene, it caught me completely off guard, so shocking did it seem to intrude into a movie that had seemed so delicate up until that point.

And the film is just immaculately mounted, bathing in the beauty of its sets and costumes, but not in a way that feels movie-ish -- I liked the way some of the characters even wore the same clothes in different scenes, you know, the way real people do in life but so rarely do in costume dramas. And the film is gorgeously photographed and framed, with some very neat visual motifs (characters are often framed in doors and windows, suggesting the ways in which they are all constantly posturing in life, as if for photographs; Haynes frequently cuts into scenes where characters are framed so that the audience doesn't immediately know who else is in the scene, underlining the way Carol and Therese essentially have to block out the rest of the world from their own lives.)

From a content standpoint, the film does an exceptional job -- in a way similar to Far From Heaven -- at conveying to the audience that lesbianism wasn't actually something people didn't talk about in the 1950's. Much of the film becomes an exploration of the WAY people half a century ago discussed it, and the way the film's three lesbians of varying degrees of outness negotiate their romantic and social lives within those constructs. Even from the opening scene, when Carol places her hand on Therese in a very different manner than Therese's male friend does, the film is constantly analyzing the differing modes of physical and emotional contact its characters are allowed to have, in both public and private spaces. And throughout the film, a compendium of tiny details reveal great insight about the characters -- Therese turning the radio UP rather than down when Carol and her husband are fighting outside, Therese getting a kick out of almost flirting in public by the way she says "it's a very attractive rate," the boldly casual way Carol pulls up a chair when Therese is having breakfast with the salesman at the motel, the offhand manner in which Therese asks Richard if he's ever been in love with a boy (and then his baffled reaction to it), the Harge/Abby fight that probably reveals more about both of their characters than any moment with the film's leads, Therese's deer-in-the-headlights response to Carol's "I love you," and so on and so on. By the end of the film, I found myself not so much enamored by any big story turns (though there are a couple), but the way in which scene after scene feels like a little mini movie, with the cumulative effect being an enormously rich portrait of individual lives in this specific time and place.

At this point, it feels cliche to remark on the ways in which Cate Blanchett is a beast of an actress, but I don't think I've ever found her such a striking screen STAR as I did here -- the whole movie luxuriates in her presence, the way she fills out one glamorous outfit after another, the way she smiles and tosses her hair with an almost carnal awareness of the effect she's having on everyone who watches. This is overall a more subdued role than Blue Jasmine was, but she's got some knockout scenes, most especially the sequence in the lawyer's office near the end of the film where she lays out her custody terms, and the actress delivers with full emotional force to match her earlier moments of charisma. Rooney Mara has a much quieter role, yet she holds her own opposite Blanchett, and does an excellent job portraying the curiosity mixed with deep uncertainty that plagues a young woman figuring out who she is and her place in the world. And the supporting players all deliver nicely, with Kyle Chandler getting his best movie role to date, Sarah Paulson slipping pleasingly into the Agnes Moorehead best friend role, and Jake Lacy adding yet another cuckolded boyfriend to his C.V. following similar roles in Obvious Child and Girls.

On the whole, I don't feel that Carol is as emotionally overwhelming as Far From Heaven -- that film just knocked me out at a gut level, whereas my admiration for Carol is of a more intellectual sort. But this is a very rich tapestry that invites many readings, and it's one of a number of movies I've seen in the last few weeks that have really made me excited about going to the movies again after far too many months.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 5857
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Carol reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat May 16, 2015 5:28 pm

Screen Daily. More muted praise.

By Tim Grierson

Dir. Todd Haynes. UK-US. 2014. 118mins

An exquisite sadness envelops Carol, a delicate romantic drama guided and dominated by a wonderfully nuanced performance from Cate Blanchett, who plays the titular 1950s woman facing an anxious crossroads. The first film from director Todd Haynes since 2007’s I’m Not There, this love story between Carol and a younger, more impressionable woman (played by Rooney Mara) aches with the quiet longing of both its characters, whose attraction needs to be kept behind closed doors. It’s such stately, evocative, confident filmmaking, the only reservation being that it’s also a bit chilly.

Playing in Competition at Cannes, Carol will be released in the US through the Weinstein Company, which is surely planning a major awards push, especially for two-time Oscar-winner Blanchett. Her star power — aided by Haynes’ art-house following and Mara’s rising profile — will ensure must-see status for this sure-to-be well-reviewed beauty. As for the material’s lesbian subject matter, it’s depicted in such a tasteful, lovely way that it’s hard to imagine Carol generating much controversy on that front.

In the winter of 1952, New York City housewife Carol (Blanchett) meets department-store employee Therese (Mara), an immediate spark noticeable between them. Soon, they conspire to meet for lunch, their coy conversation barely hiding their attraction. With her divorce from stuffy businessman Harge (Kyle Chandler) imminent, Carol (who’s had previous lesbian relationships) wants to take Therese away for the holidays while her husband insists on going with their young daughter to his family’s house for Christmas. A bit directionless, the early-20s Therese sees in Carol not just a seductive, assured woman but also a mentor and lover.

Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price Of Salt, Carol finds Haynes somewhat returning to the 1950s milieu of Far From Heaven, although his new movie doesn’t go so far as to deconstruct the period’s rigid conformity through the prism of a Douglas Sirk aesthetic. Instead, Carol is far subtler, and perhaps more resigned, about the harmful effects midcentury American conservatism had on those who couldn’t fit into narrow societal perceptions of what was “normal” behaviour.

Carol’s tale is a quietly heartbreaking one, but it’s a testament to Blanchett’s deeply intelligent portrayal that we don’t realise that for quite some time. In Blanchett’s hands, Carol always comes across as a well-coiffed, elegantly made-up, dryly witty sophisticate. Her courtship of the less-confident Therese is a collection of precise, unassuming, just vaguely haughty comments that make her romantic intentions clear without being overt. (We sense that Carol, whose husband knows about her past lesbian relationships, has learned how to speak in code in a society that finds her sexuality aberrant.)

In the past, Blanchett has sometimes amped up the acting pyrotechnics — as she did in her Oscar-nominated turn in I’m Not There channeling the young, feisty Bob Dylan — but she understands that Carol can’t afford to be flashy. Consequently, this is among Blanchett’s most muted work, and she deftly and slowly teases out the cracks in this proud woman’s gorgeous exterior.

Haynes and Blanchett build the film around Carol’s wistful, possibly fleeting romance with Therese, and as a result the other half of this love affair doesn’t get fully developed. Because of Mara’s star-making performances in the American remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Side Effects — both of which saw her playing dangerous, unstable characters — Therese’s innocent eyes lead one to wonder if, once again, the actress is portraying someone with a darker side. But unfortunately, Therese stays a somewhat passive character. While this approach is partly by design — the sheltered Therese has never dated a woman before — the character’s brittle transition to adulthood feels a touch too remote. Unlike Blanchett, Mara can’t quite articulate a world of secret thoughts and buried needs in the simplest of expressions.

Considering that Haynes has often preferred a slightly detached, intellectual approach — he last made the 2011 HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce — Carol is probably his most plainly emotional film, although it remains an icy construction, the obstacles awaiting the characters’ love affair and the difficulties Carol will face during divorce proceedings presented from a remove that tamps down the poignancy. To be sure, such an effect produces a rich, endless melancholy, but it can also leave the movie feeling too restrained for its own good.

That said, the movie’s most palpably expressive element is longtime Coen brothers composer Carter Burwell’s score, which is devastatingly spare and sad, recalling some of the lonely grandeur of his work on the filmmakers’ True Grit remake. Shot on film in Super 16 by frequent collaborator Ed Lachman, Carol effortlessly recalls a bygone era with a tart mixture of nostalgia and self-awareness: Haynes acknowledges the stylishness of the period (accentuated by Sandy Powell’s excellent costumes) but also recognises the silent bigotry that constantly threatens Carol’s hopes for love and happiness.


Return to “2015”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest