Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

CAROL

Lovers: Cate Blanchette and Rooney Mara
CAROL (2015). Director: Todd Haynes.

"What use am I to her, to us, if I'm going against my own grain?"

In the 1950s Carol Aird (Cate Blanchette) is in the process of divorcing her husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), when she spots Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) behind the counter of a department store -- and vice versa. Despite differences in age and class, the two embark upon a friendship and then into a full-fledged sexual and romantic affair. Trouble arrives when Harge decides to sue for sole custody of their adorable daughter, Rindy (Sadie Helm), on charges of aberrant morality. In desperation Carol sends Therese out of her life, but will they ever be able to renew their relationship? Carol is based on "The Price of Salt" by Patricia Highsmith (better known for her thrillers such as Strangers on a Train), perhaps the only lesbian novel that has a positive ending for the two ladies. The climax milks the suspense as we wonder if Rooney can get over the hurt and abandonment she felt and embrace a new life with Carol. The acting in this is good, although Blanchette at first seems too affected and even predatory, but Mara is perfect at delineating her character's hesitation, desire, and acceptance of her sexuality. Kyle Chandler scores as the discarded husband, as does Sarah Paulson as Carol's friend and ex-lover, Abby. and there are notable turns from Trent Rowland as Therese's boyfriend, Jack, Cory Michael Smith as a deceptively nerdy private eye, and John Magaro and Jake Lacey as Therese's friends and co-workers. Carol is handsomely produced, and has a sensitive, if occasionally overly sombre, musical score by Carter Burwell [Mildred Pierce], as well as superior production design (Judy Becker) and photography (Edward Lachman). [The screenplay is  by Phyllis Nagy who sports an almost comically out-dated butch haircut as if she were living in the fifties.] Rooney played a rather negative lesbian/bi character in Side Effects.

Verdict: While this has been riotously over-praised in some quarters, it is a well-acted and worthwhile movie that scrupulously avoids dumb stereotyping. ***.

2 comments:

angelman66 said...

I'm a huge Todd Haynes fan--two of his very best are Mildred Pierce and Velvet Goldmine--but I like some of his movies more than others. Do you remember Far From Heaven with Julianne Moore, which also had a lush 1950s setting, very All That Heaven Allows? I didn't care for that one, but I really enjoyed Carol, which had a lot of the same production design elements but a much better script. Blanchett and Rooney were both superb!

Loved your review of this one and agree with every word!
-Chris

William said...

Thank you. Yes I saw "Far from Heaven" and recall that I liked it better than you did. I enjoyed Haynes' take on "Mildred Pierce," and "Velvet Goldmine," which you recommended, is in a pile of DVDs I'm waiting to catch up with. Soon!