Carol (2015)

TODD HAYNES

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB.  United Kingdom/USA, 2015.  , , , , , , , , , .  Screenplay by , based on the novel The Price Of Salt by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by Elizabeth Karlsen, Tessa Ross, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley.  Music by Carter Burwell.  Production Design by Judy Becker.  Costume Design by Sandy Powell.  Film Editing by Affonso Goncalves.  Academy Awards 2015AFI Film of the Year 2015. Boston Film Critics Awards 2015.   Cannes Film Festival Awards 2015.  Golden Globe Awards 2015.   Gotham Awards 2015Independent Spirit Awards 2015New York Film Critics Awards 2015Washington Film Critics Awards 2015.

A department store clerk (Rooney Mara) catches the eye of a beautiful, wealthy housewife (Cate Blanchett), which leads very quickly to lunches together and, before long, evenings in front of the fire at Blanchett’s gorgeous suburban mansion. The intense glances between them means that these two ladies are interested in more than just gossip or shopping partners, the prolonged resistance to consummating their physical attraction creating a deeper bond between them that constantly threatens to burst given that they are up against the expectations and prejudices of 1950s America: Mara’s boyfriend keeps pressuring her to marriage, while Blanchett’s estranged husband () becomes increasingly desperate to get their marriage back together despite knowing the true reasons for their distance. Todd Haynes returns to the post-war era he explored so well in Far From Heaven with equally stunning results:  where the Julianne Moore classic took place in a recreation of a film from the period, this one, adapted from the novel The Price Of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, is situated in the real world, albeit one filtered through Haynes’ own visual style.  There is great tragedy in this story of two women who so willingly love each other (Rooney is so game to Blanchett’s suggestive advances that it is warmly funny) but cannot express it until long after common sense would have them say it, and the progression from sex to companionship that these women go on is more than touching (watch how Blanchett cuddles Mara the second time they’re in bed together versus their hot and heavy encounter).  The passion is more deeply placed in the aestheticism, the stunning solid colours accentuated by plaid scarves and glistening martini glasses for one of the greatest visual treats of Haynes’ career (and another great achievement for cinematographer Ed Lachman).  What really knocks it out of the park is the solid direction:  a single shot is not wasted in presenting a focused and deeply felt story that is punctuated liberally by much needed humour that only makes it that much more moving, the kind of brittle tragedy that makes the word sentimental a compliment. Blanchett is a perfect fit for the role, her statuesque body moving like an athlete in Sandy Powell’s gorgeous creations, her facial expressions equally confident in constantly gauging the risk involved in going after what she wants.  Mara is surprisingly sympathetic for someone who spends most of the movie with a stymied expression on her face, while  is a knockout as Blanchett’s former lover and current friend, her scenes among the film’s best.

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