Saturday, October 10, 2015

“Carol”– Movie Review



On the closing weekend of The New York Film Festival, I attended a screening of “Carol”, a new drama starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.


When a married woman begins an affair with a female department store clerk, what will be the impact on their relationship when the ensuing divorce results in a custody battle?


In the early 1950’s, Therese (Mara) is a young woman who’s still finding herself; taking a job working in a Manhattan department store for subsistence money, her true passion is photography.  But she soon learns she has other passions when one of her customers is Carol (Blanchett), a beautiful older woman Christmas shopping for her daughter.  Upon Carol’s departure, Therese notices she’s accidentally left her gloves; having Carol’s address from the delivery order for her purchase, Therese has Carol’s gloves returned.  Grateful, Carol takes the young clerk to lunch, at which point, she invites Therese to visit at her New Jersey home. 

In her pursuit of Therese, Carol shows little regard for her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), as they have been estranged for quite some time.  Harge intrudes during Therese’s visit and demands to take his daughter to Florida for the holidays.  With Carol now alone for Christmas and Therese having no nearby family, Carol invites her to spend the holidays with her and the two decide to drive to Chicago.  Before leaving, Carol meets with her divorce attorney, who warns her that Harge will insist on custody of their daughter based on her “immoral” relationship with Therese. 

Together, Carol and Therese embark on their drive; the more time they spend together, the more their mutual attraction intensifies.  Finally, on New Year’s Eve, they wind up having an inevitable tryst in their shared motel room; Carol’s delight soon turns to disdain when she finds out her husband has had a private eye tailing them and bugging their room.  Returning home, Carol remains distant from Therese while she concentrates on her custody battle.  But when things seem to get settled and Carol tries to get Therese to resume their relationship, can the two return to the way things were or is it too late?


Those familiar with director Todd Haynes’ work may regard “Carol” as his new highpoint.  A thoroughly romantic story well told, Haynes provides audiences with a deeply satisfying, perfectly shot ending.  “Carol”, like Haynes’ “Far From Heaven”, casts a highly critical eye on American suburban life in the ultra-conservative 1950’s.   Both Blanchett and Mara offer engaging, utterly believable performances that allow immense sympathy for their respective characters; Blanchett is especially brilliant, once again redefining perfection and beauty in yet another one of her movies.

At the risk of being picky, there is one issue with the screenplay:  in the second act, we learn that one character is carrying a gun; later, when that gun is used, we find out it isn’t loaded.  If you travel with a gun for protection, wouldn’t you make sure it was loaded before it was going to be fired?  Was the gun emptied in a previous scene which was cut from the film?  It’s enough to take you out of the story for a minute or two, because it’s a little confusing.  Another frustrating point is that in “Carol”, we have another feminist movie where men are portrayed as either evil or jerks; in fact, it is not the men who are the villains here, but rather, the inverted social mores of the time that provide the antagonist that must be “beaten”.   

Following the screening, there was a question and answer session with Haynes, Blanchett, Mara and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy.  Haynes was grateful their producer was able to squeeze in two weeks of rehearsal time in the schedule as this supplied an opportunity for the actors to find the characters.  Nagy said her big challenge for adapting Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Price Of Salt” (which was published under a pseudonym) had to do with the novel’s ongoing internal narrative since the book is basically a road trip.  Mara mentioned that the props and costumes helped her get into character while shooting. 

Carol (2015) on IMDb

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!