By Christian DiMartino
13 years ago, Todd Haynes made a great drama called Far From Heaven, a 1950s set film about forbidden love and keeping up appearances. Now 13 years later, he’s brought us Carol, a 1950s drama about forbidden love and keeping up appearances… and it’s even better.
With these two films, and the amazing miniseries Mildred Pierce, it is very obvious that Haynes has a gift with capturing the past. Like those films, Carol is great looking, with luscious cinematography and so on. Carter Burwell’s score also fits very well.
The film revolves around a department store employee named Therese (played by Rooney Mara). Therese is a lonely young woman, looking for some sort of opportunity. She is in a sort-of relationship with some guy, but she doesn’t really care about him. Then, opportunity walks into her place of business.
She soon meets a married, middle-aged woman named Carol (played by Cate Blanchett). Carol is in the middle of a divorce (her husband is played by Kyle Chandler), and this divorce interferes with her life, especially due to the custody battle. But yet Therese sees opportunity in Carol. She sees a lovely, fascinating woman, and she also sees something in her… romantically.
Blanchett, one of the greatest actresses we have, is in perfect form as the title role, and so is Mara as a department store employee who sees Carol as a chance for opportunity, even in a romantic sense. As a couple, they definitely make it feel authentic. We also get strong but brief turns from Chandler and Sarah Paulson as Carol’s right hand woman..
Normally, when you hear the term, “lesbian movie,” you expect something dirty, and that might draw people into it. If you are expecting a lesbian porno, you have come to the wrong film. What Haynes does here is something more caring. He sees the value in this story (based on The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith), and so when we do get to the romantic elements, it feels passionate. Not always an easy thing to pull off, but he does it marvelously.
Believe what you have heard. This film should be a major Oscar contender, and it is perfectly understandable. It is one of the year’s best pictures, and I expect to see this great cast and crew walking the Red Carpet.