film reel image

film reel image

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Carol 2015 * * * 1/2 Stars

CarolDirector: Todd Haynes
Year: 2015
Rated R
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson

Written by Cole Pollyea

I heard a saying once that goes like this: there is magic in excellence. I pondered that for a while, ingesting it and observing events encompassed by it, and eventually decided that it must be a two-way street. Namely, there is a high degree of excellence in magic. Whichever way this notion is considered, it’s evident that the intersection is passed through by Todd Hayne’s marvelous Carol, a film that contains wondrous amounts of both excellence and magic.

Taking on an old-fashioned stylistic approach, Carol captures the love affair between two women at starkly different times in their lives, whose attraction to one another is untimely for Carol (Cate Blanchett), who is in the middle of a divorce with her husband, and confusing for Therese (Rooney Mara), who, to put it lightly, can’t even make up her mind about lunch. That last line was stolen from the film itself, from a scene where the two have lunch together, meeting each other for the first time in a non-professional environment. It is one of the film’s finest moments, as it showcases nearly every one of the film’s merits, but above all, its powerful screenplay.

By old-fashioned I first mean that the movie does little with sound and camerawork. Despite that the proceedings take place in the city, in bars, restaurants, hotels, parking lots, and busy streets, all we really hear are the soft voices of the leads and all we really see is a traditional series of tight shots, medium close ups, and mid shots. What the movie really relies on is the chemistry between actors Blanchett, Mara, Kyle Chandler, and a number of other supporting roles who unquestionably provide. They keep the fire lit from start to finish.

Secondly, the movie captures the 1950’s in a way that is both fresh and intoxicating. From costume design to screenplay accuracy to production design, Carol just gets it right. It also allows its main characters’ issues to fit in with what was going on in society in an entirely believable way, which adds to the depth of the movie’s emotion.

My only complaint about Carol is that, for a while, it’s hard to grasp what is drawing the two women together. Until a certain series of events transpire, there is little that matches the magnitude of their first meeting. This is made unimportant by the fact that once these events do transpire, we can again understand what is drawing these two towards one another, and the movie returns to its bona fide status as the marvelous, chillingly romantic film that it is. In fact, it’s safe to say that by the end of it all, we feel more strongly about the plight of the two women than we ever imagined we would; that is a sign of a true work of art.

Written by Cole Pollyea 

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