“Carol” – Review

 

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Carol isn’t your nostalgia-tinged, candy-coated, melodramatic, Technicolor dreamland of a 1950s romance. Carol is darker, hazier, more thoughtful, and more particular. Todd Haynes has created a rich, substantial film, and Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara have perfectly illustrated two characters slinking into such a then-forbidden romance, cautious but hopeful to be swept up in it all.

Blanchett plays the titular character and Mara plays Therese, a lowly shop worker; they accidentally meet, and fate twists upon them. Their connection is undeniable, both for the characters and the actresses. I can’t see any other women playing these roles. Blanchett is always mesmerizing, but Mara truly shines here. To contrast Therese with, say, Lisbeth Salander illustrates just how diverse the roles she chooses and (effectively) plays. Their acting is subtle but powerful. It may come off as wooden or unresponsive, but I don’t see that at all. I was captivated by them. I can imagine both actresses earning Oscar nominations (they’ve already earned Golden Globe nominations for their performances). Sarah Paulsen and Kyle Chandler also play important roles, and do rather well with their characters.

Carol is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt. Highsmith is probably most known as the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Now, I’ve yet to read The Price of Salt (something I hope to do in 2016), but it would be interesting to see how Phyllis Nagy adapted it into a script, something that always interests me.

This may sound odd, but I quite enjoyed all the sequences of travel (there are many). The camera usually stays on the outside of the vehicle, remaining on (usually) Mara peering outside, almost as if she’s longing for it. The camera does, however, creep into the interior, and focuses on the passengers’ interactions, their habits, their exhaustion, their happiness. I found this visual motif to be key in understanding Therese’s journey.

It’s interesting to contrast Carol with Far From Heaven, Haynes’ 2002 film which does pay homage, in both aesthetics and script, to Douglas Sirk and his candy-coated, melodramatic, Technicolor dreamland film All That Heaven Allows, starring Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. It’s almost as if Carol is a foil to Far From Heaven (and many of Sirk’s films). Don’t get me wrong, Far From Heaven is a beautiful and effective movie, too, but it’s such a distinct variation on the same theme, a darker realization that I prefer; they each play together and contradict each other, which is fascinating to me. It would be interesting to compare the two further.

Carol is probably my favorite film of 2015. It’s subtle, dark but hopeful. Blanchett and Mara are perfect, and Todd Haynes has simply stretched out his streak of winning films.

The film was also shot in Cincinnati, where I live, so it was fun to spot certain buildings or skylines and see how they were transformed for the film.

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