I had been looking forward to this film for months, and upon finally viewing it- it's a huge disappointment. Todd Haynes, who's finest achievement is still Far From Heaven (2002), has a knack for creating intimate atmospheres with radiant colors and backdrops. Like Far from Heaven, he succeeds with the aesthetic values of the 1950s by giving us refined art direction and beautiful costumes. Unlike Far from Heaven, we are given wooden characters and a predictable script, with a score by Carter Burwell that sounds exactly like Philip Glass's creation for The Hours (2002). Rooney Mara works in a department store, and finds herself attracted to Cate Blanchett, a well to do married woman who flirts with her while shopping for Christmas presents. Later they have lunch, and in the only truly well acted scene in the film, seem to connect almost instantaneously. The dialogue here is cleverly limited- so we can instead watch the suggestive gestures of both characters that indicate sexual attraction- and tension. It's too bad this is the only scene I felt was able to capture this. The rest of the movie unfolds like a poorly written episode of the series Mad Men, as the women keep meeting up secretly whilst the husband gets suspicious and even hires a detective to follow them to a hotel so he can later gain custody of Blanchett's child. This is because homosexuality is "naughty". Perhaps the reason I felt bored watching Carol was that the material is old and tired. Sexual repression in the 50s? We've seen this so many times. Brokeback Mountain (2005) also dealt with homosexuality with two men- and with much sharper direction and a more interesting story. The actors there were also more believable. Speaking of the acting, Cate Blanchett is indeed the standout. She's not nearly as strong as I had heard or hoped for, but she's none the less ravishing and breathtaking to gaze upon. She's at the peek of her career now, with 2 Oscars under her belt, and indeed Carol should easily earn her a deserved 7th nomination. But besides a juicy scene towards the end, the character isn't that intriguing. There's a lot to be desired, and that easily could be the fault of the screenwriter (Phyllis Nagy), who adapted the script. Yes I get it- it's supposed to be subtle, but this character felt empty. Blanchett is a fine actress- we could have gotten some more fire from her character. Rooney Mara is even more flat. She relies simply on her pretty face. I kept thinking Natalie Portman would have exuded so much more energy with the role, since both women have similar physical dynamics to their facial structures. Mara just comes off weak. There's not an ounce of integrity or feeling coming through with this performance. If that's how she was supposed to play it, then the fault lies in the director. How she won at Cannes is beyond me. She's not impressive at all. She's pretty, but that doesn't constitute good acting. The rest of the cast is easily forgettable. Sarah Paulson has a thankless role, and she's usually very good (watch her in 12 Years a Slave). Mara's boyfriend is the worst acting I've seen all year; very high school drama club. Everyone else is going through their lines in a robotic tone. This could have been an exceptional film. And I'm in the minority who didn't like it (it's currently one of the top reviewed films of 2015, and destined to be crowned with nominations on Oscar morning). But it left me feeling cold, and bored. I might just be sick of seeing movies about the 1950s and how everyone couldn't "talk about things like being gay, and sex, and racial relations" back then. The subject has been hammered over my head too many times. But the trailer for this movie was a love letter. Why couldn't the movie be the same? Mara and Blanchett are supposed to be in love, and yet their first meeting aside- I never really felt a true connection between them. There was never enough juice in their chemistry for me to believe it.
In an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's seminal novel The Price of Salt, CAROL follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. As conventional norms of the time challenge their undeniable attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change. A young woman in her 20s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. As an immediate connection sparks between them, the innocence of their first encounter dims and their connection deepens. While Carol breaks free from the confines of marriage, her husband (Kyle Chandler) begins to question her competence as a mother as her involvement with Therese and close relationship with her best friend Abby (Sarah Paulson) come to light.