CAROL (director: Todd Haynes; screenwriter: based on the Patricia Highsmith novel “The Price of Salt”/Phyllis Nagy; cinematographer: Ed Lachman; editor: Affonso Goncalves; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Cate Blanchett (Carol Aird), Rooney Mara (Therese Belivet), Kyle Chandler (Harge Aird), Michael Haney (John Aird), Sarah Paulson (Abby Gerhard), Jake Lacy (Richard Semco), John Magaro (Dannie McElroy), Cory Michael Smith (Tommy Tucker), Carrie Brownstein (Genevieve Cantrell), Kevin Crowley (Fred Haymes), Nik Pajic (Phil McElroy), Sadie Heim (Rindy Aird); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley, Christine Vachon; The Weinstein Company; 2015)
“It’s the measured performances by co-stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara that make this film special.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A perfectly conceived unexpected lesbian love affair narrative set in NYC, in 1952, built around a familiar narrative over a failing marriage and spiteful split on the part of the husband. The main flaw in the intelligent and elegant melodrama was its studied graphic lesbian love scene, that looked more like good acting than a passionate love-making scene. Otherwise this is a great film, one that’s visually stunning, well-acted and awesomely directed by the idiosyncratic Todd Haynes (“I’m Not There”/”Far From Heaven”/”Velvet Goldmine”). It’s based on the acclaimed crime writer Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel “The Price of Salt,” and is superbly written by Phyllis Nagy. But it’s the measured performances by co-stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara that make this film special.
The timid 20ish virgin Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) resides alone and works as a sales clerk in the doll department of a Macy’s like Manhattan department store. She aspires for a more fulfilling life as a photographer, and is in a relationship with a pushy guy named Richard (Jake Lacy) who wants to bully her into marrying him. A chic middle-aged woman of wealth, the New Jersey suburbanite, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), shops for a Christmas present for her pampered young daughter Rindy (Sadie Heim), and has a train set delivered to her home address. When Therese returns the gloves Carol leaves on the counter, the ladies meet for lunch. We find out that Carol is seeking a divorce from her rich, heavy drinking,possessive, dullard, upper-class husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), and her convenient loveless marriage has turned bitter because hubby can’t let her go and holds her hostage by threatening to deny her visiting rights to their child. Carol has just ended a five-year fling with her childhood girlfriend Abby (Sarah Paulson), which Harge brings up in the custody fight for sole possession. He claims his wife is morally unfit to raise the child because of her affair with Abby. Conflicted about giving up the child, the only thing she liked about the marriage, the lonely woman drags the wide-eyed innocent Therese with her for a holiday drive to the Midwest where Therese has her first sexual encounter. That affair is documented on film by the sleazy private detective (Cory Michael Smith) hired by Harge.
The pic explores the difficulties of being a lesbian in the repressed Eisenhower era, how the desires of both ladies are viewed as sinful in those moralistic times, and how uptight the upper-class is in its persistence of maintaining its privileged status.
It’s a meticulous adaptation of the novel, one that pleases us with its sensual use of colors on camera and its intimate way of framing scenes. It offers a nuanced screenplay, and a love story that is emotionally challenging.
REVIEWED ON 12/2/2015 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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