Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler
Based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by: Patricia Highsmith
Adapted for the screen by: Phyllis Nagy
Directed by: Todd Haynes
IMDb Score: 7.3
Metacritic Score: 95
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Best Actress (Blanchett), Best Supporting Actress (Mara), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography
Rated R for a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language
Before Brokeback Mountain, LGBT films were considered to either be fringe art-house flicks (High Art, Boys Don’t Cry) or subplots in a larger plot on some well known art house films (Far From Heaven, But I’m A Cheerleader). Meaning, until recently, LGBT films weren’t having the success that most standard romances do.
Or, honestly, I may also be wrong just do to lack of looking for those types of films in my own. My favorite of any LGBT films, Blue is the Warmest Color, is a recent film that is both beautiful and brutal with the depiction of not just love and passion, but of heartbreak and of damage through love.
And, admittedly, there are very few gay films I’ve seen that really resonated with me. Brokeback to me seemed like more of a friendship with benefits movies, while Milk is a great movie about the rights of LGBT, it’s more of a bio-pic of a specific man than an LGBT themed movie.
So, yeah, this leads to Carol, a film directed by one of my favorite directors: Todd Haynes. Two of my favorite films, Far From Heaven and Velvet Goldmine, are films directed by him and show his different styles of filmmaking. One is exuberant and colorful, the other is a Douglas Sirk like sendup.
So, how does Carol hold up to his films?
Therese Belivet (Mara) and Carol Aidy (Blanchett) start a friendship that blooms into something more in Christmas time in the 50s.
This movie is a solid film with great performances by Cate Blanchett and, especially, Rooney Mara. The actors do a great job of having sly, simmering chemistry while not being exploitative or overtly arousing in any way. It’s a film that shows an adult, sexual relationship in a mature, classy way.
It’s easy for visual mediums to turn lesbian relationships into male wanker fantasies, turning both lovers into objectified means of fantasy. But what Carol does is not make the women sexy (which, they are), but make the romance itself sexy and passionate.
It does it by creating a feeling of “Just when…” and coyly playing with that expectation of the audience. The film doesn’t hide that there is an attraction; it makes it pretty obvious that at least one is attracted to the other.
This feeling turns into a yearning of watching two people who crave each other finally decide to consummate their relationship. And for that period of time, the film is exquisitely paced and pulls off this feeling with a feel of a slow burn.
After this, however, the film hits some hiccups. The film transitions into a different feel, which isn’t necessarily bad but seems to be at odds with the first half of the film. Without spoiling, the film folds in on itself with its background drama and makes the beginning parts of the film feel stunted, in a sense.
It’s kind of like having a balls to the wall action film and then, turn into My Dinner With Andre or just a film with dialogue and no action.
The drama in the second half is palpable, yes, but it just feels off with the rest of the film. Although it does, in a sense, do a good job of keeping the audience guessing on the validity of the romance of these two characters.
The film is gorgeously shot and benefits greatly from the cinematography of Edward Lachman. There are key scenes in the film that, while meant to be more mundane, are punched with a exquisite coloring and lighting.
The key scene in the film, which is when the two characters make love for the first time, is incredibly well shot with great camera angles and lush color palettes. The lighting gives the feel of an voyeurism mixed with tinted glass: a feel of passion and beauty that few sex scenes really accomplish without being overly showy or gaudy.
Other mundane scenes in the film, like driving on a country side or being inside of a department store, are given a dream-like feel and look with its dimmed lighting and deep color palettes. The film just feels like a cherished, well polished 50’s antique with personality and it blends so well with the movie.
Finally, the performances are excellent. Cate Blanchett gives a great performance as the title character. Blanchett’s confident, yet mysterious performance gives the title character a feel of knowing more through gesture and decadence without being overtly obvious of the such.
But the performance of the movie is Rooney Mara, who plays the mousey Terese. Her performance is what makes the romance of this movie so intense and intoxicating. Her character’s feel and indecisiveness, along with her heartbreaking shyness and introverted demeanor, adds to the “Just when…” throughout the first half of the film, giving that part of the film an added power that films like these don’t have.
Yet, there’s still a feeling of missed opportunity in the film. The second half, while creating a tension in the love story, seems to be manufactured for the sake of having added drama. Which is a shame, since the first half of the film gracefully teeters the line of artistic passion and pretty looking melodrama.
This is a film that should be watched for people who like romance movies with a sexual tinge to it. It’s a beautiful looking film with excellent performances by the lead actors and a romance that is both passionate and steamy.
Yet, it could have been more than it was.
The Wiz Says #61