Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
Carol - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: A-
Acting: A
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

Carol is much more romantic than you might expect of a story about two women falling in love in the early 1950s, so much so that the story sticks with you long after the movie ends. To be sure, we've seen increasing numbers of movies about gay people whose lives are in no way tragic, but it's rare to see that kind of self-actualization among such characters in stories set decades ago.

Don't misunderstand, though -- these people do face many of the challenges you might expect for the time. Well, the title character does, anyway. And Cate Blanchett is a vision as Carol, a recently divorced woman falling for a much younger woman. She also must deal with an ex (Kyle Chandler) who resents her inability to return his love and uses their daughter via the courts to lash out at her. Carol, who also has a great friend in a former lover (the always wonderful Sarah Paulson), has a lot to deal with. She has responsibilities befitting her age at the time, which can be used against her.

Therese isn't faced with nearly as many dire possibilities; in fact she finds herself unusually comfortable with being courted by Carol, who meets her while shopping at the department store where she works. Rooney Mara is very much Blanchett's equal in this part; in spite of a 16-year difference between these actors, the two have undeniable chemistry.

Director Todd Haynes, who also directed the near-perfect Far From Heaven in 2002, establishes and maintains a peculiar, yet very comfortable tone in the telling of this story, which is relatively simple and sticks to the basics of two people falling in love. The difference is that with most love stories, the arc is quite predictable: one person is all strength and confidence while wooing the other; said person makes some stupid mistake, and then resolution comes when he or she makes amends for said mistake.

The arc in Carol and Therese's story is different. Neither of them is made of steel; both of them are open and vulnerable in their own ways, both emotionally and in terms of risks they take in mid-20th-century American society. There is a bit of the expected separation that leaves the question of whether they wind up together, and I won't spoil that for you. Suffice it to say that their story goes in its own directions, and ends with more hope than tragedy.

A lot of Carol actually follows them on a road trip, from New York to Chicago. They stay in motels along the way, finding themselves as well as each other. Carol herself has less need of finding herself, actually; she seems to know who she is. And her best friend serves as a refreshing example of a lesbian in the early fifties who is fully self-actualized. It probably helps, even for the time, that they live in New York City. There is plenty conspiring to keep them apart, but you begin to suspect that these women may be stronger than any such forces.

And it is a joy to watch them falling for each other. It's like a classic love story in which the couple just happens to be both women. There's something oddly sedate about how both of them deliver their lines, but that's not to the film's detriment. It's comforting, in a way. It makes Carol sort of . . . cozy. You want to wrap yourself up in this movie, in their words, in the way they say them. And anyone who has merely been in love -- and that is most of us -- can easily relate to them. This is not a niche film.

Carol is the rare kind of movie that you don't realize how good it really is until after the fact. It has decent cinematography and editing, but nothing to call attention to technical achievements while you're watching. This is all in service to the characters, whose fates are easy to invest in, thanks to Oscar-worthy performances. This is a movie likely to gain greater richness with repeat viewings. Carol and Therese love each other, and you will love them.

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara offer a classic love story in CAROL.

Overall: A-
Leave a comment