January 4, 2016
Carol is a beautifully simple film that unfolds in such wonderfully nuanced layers that you can’t help but become invested in both the artistry and emotions that play out onscreen. It’s as much a love letter to the 1950s as it is to the two characters living at its center. Todd Haynes’ direction is so masterful you almost feel like you’re intruding as you watch their love bloom from a first furtive glance across a department store toy counter.
Cate Blanchett effortlessly exudes sophistication and glamour as Carol Aird, a divorcing woman who becomes instantly smitten with a shop girl, Therese Belivet (a stunning Rooney Mara giving glimpses of Audrey Hepburn’s gamine mystique). Therese is self-described as a girl that rarely says no to anything, so naturally she agrees to an outing at Carol’s estate after a lunch date where Carol remarks through cigarette smoke, “What a strange girl you are. Flung out of space!”
Unfortunately, all in love is not fair. Carol’s soon-to-be ex-husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) is desperate to keep her. He breaks up a têtê-à-têtê with the intent of bringing his wife home to his parents’ for Christmas, but settles for a fight where he throws out accusations about “Aunt Abby” (Sarah Paulson), Carol’s best friend. This outburst only prolongs the inevitable by providing a need for a change of scenery aka “the road trip,” wherein the relationship is consummated in Waterloo, Iowa of all places. Writer Phyllis Nagy’s intelligent, almost lyrical script is brimming with double entendre and expert non-sequitur.
A lot of the time it feels as if Carol is really at odds with herself more than with the people vying for her attention. She’s come to terms with who she is and is smart enough to realize that that’s more important than trying to fit into a society that doesn’t even want to understand her. It’s a very different perspective from the youthful Therese who is still finding her way in the world, but is bold or reckless enough to always keep moving forward.
It’s no wonder Carol has garnered much acclaim. It’s so well done that it feels like an instant classic. Everyone from the cinematographer to costume designer should walk away with an award. If you’re someone who keeps up with awards season, do yourself a favor and catch this before it starts. If you’re not, still go see this film because it feels tragic to waste this opportunity to experience cinema at its finest.
Star Rating: 5 out of 5
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