This is one of the most beautiful romances I have seen in years.
Movie Review #1,045
Distributed by The Weinstein Company. Drama-Romance. Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes. Rated R for a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language. Released November 20, 2015. Directed by Todd Haynes. Screenplay by Phyllis Nagy. From the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith. Starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, and Jake Lacy.
I’m going to clear this up from the very beginning. The term “lesbian romance” has been tossed around like a volleyball in reviews of “Carol”. I’ll be the first person to step up and say that the term bugs me. This is not a lesbian romance, and in no way is it targeted at the LGBT community. Yes, it’s about two women who fall in love, despite what society tells them. But it’s just as accessible as any “straight romance” (and far better than most).
The pair on the screen is utterly formidable. Cate Blanchett is a revelation in his performance as the titular housewife battling for the custody of her child. She’s fallen out of love with her husband, and soon enough she falls in love with Thérèse, a much-younger woman who is in a relationship, but she might as well even be single. The latter woman is played by Rooney Mara, and she stands out unbelievably in her performance. Remember, this is the actress who played the titular in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” just four years ago. She transformed into that role, and now she’s transformed into a role that is about as different as you can get from the Stieg Larsson character. If Mara doesn’t win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar this year, there’s no justice done to recognize her ineffable versatility.
There’s a scene early in “Carol” that will surely go down in history. We see them meet for the first time, a twentysomething department clerk in New York City assisting a customer from suburban New Jersey. Except that’s not all they are to each other. You can feel the love at first sight overtake the already-rich Christmastime atmosphere. It’s an exhibition of tension better than any one scene we’ve seen in any romantic drama I can recall seeing. I had my doubts about Todd Haynes going in. Serious doubts. I hated his Bob Dylan tribute “I’m Not There.”, and that’s coming from a Bob Dylan nut. Needless to say, “Carol” blew me away all the more.
“Carol” is a powerfully deliberating film. Director Todd Haynes spends every last minute building tension in a societally forbidden relationship. It’s not until the last reach of the film that it starts to drag. Its pace is slow but highly engaging. The film that fits perfectly with the zeitgeist of 2015, and yet poetically represents the 1950s era in which it takes place. It’s a reminder that women who love women are simply people who love people. This is a film that will rid you of any bigotry for two hours, and will leave you begging for another two hours. There were several moments in the movie when I was almost verbally begging for the couple to be together.