A couple of weeks ago I went to see “Carol” with my husband and a couple of our friends.
Given that the film is about LGBT subject matter, it is directed by Todd Haynes and stars Cate Blanchett it was right up my alley.
The movie was very good. It started out a little bit slow but as the story and the characters built it was well worth the time invested in the slower parts early on. Much like “The Danish Girl” (see my review of that movie: https://jeremyochsgonzales.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/the-danish-girl/) “Carol” really is a great example of how important it is not to take the advances in LGBT rights for granted. It really wasn’t all that long ago when the characters of “Carol” had to risk everything for even the briefest glimpses of being true to who they were.
Much like Todd Haynes’ 2002 film “Far From Heaven” this film is set in the 1950’s and really shows how that decade really wasn’t nearly as perfect as people often want to remember it as being.
The 1950s was the height of society rewarding those that conformed. After two decades of depression and war the people of the United States desperately wanted everything to look and be perfect. Of course, there were gay and lesbian people in Post World War 2 America but what were they to do? They were to live in the shadows and sneak around and risk being put into mental institutions for their “disorder”. What I loved about “Carol” was how well it showed the struggle of the LGBT people in this moment in time.
“Carol” really has two protagonists who are at very different points in their lives. As the title character Cate Blanchett brings her usual brilliance to the role of an unhappy housewife who is trying to break away from her unfulfilling heterosexual marriage while still trying to be a good mother in a time when nobody would have tolerated an out lesbian as a single mom.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Rooney Mara as Therese, a young woman who is kind of in a relationship with a man but who is also at the beginning of her life and hasn’t fully committed to anything specific. As these two women begin a flirtatious friendship that turns into something more they both are forced to navigate the tricky waters of the times.
Other than not wanting them to have to compete head to head I don’t understand why Rooney Mara was pushed, and ultimately nominated for, Best Supporting Actress. Much like Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl” hers is not a supporting role. It is every bit the equal to Blanchett’s role.
In fact one could argue that Therese has a little more an arc than Carol does and that, in fact, could make Carol the supporting character. But that is a political thing…Both performances are fantastic.
Blanchett can be over the top at times but not here. She is the very definition of subtle and nuanced. Carol is in a very difficult position. Towards the end of the movie she has to make an impossible choice. I won’t reveal with the choice is and I’m sure some would disagree with what she decides but I challenge those people to really put themselves and Carol’s positon and think about what they would do.
The first time I saw Rooney Mara in a movie was in 2010’s awful remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. I thought she was truly horrid in it and I didn’t see her having any kind of real career but thanks to David Fincher and 2011’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” I changed my mind.
What is so great about Mara’s performance here is that is so different than the role that got her nominated for her first Oscar four years ago. This character is so soft, reserved and timid that it would be difficult to believe it’s the same actress if you didn’t know better.
The remaining supporting roles feature Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson and they are all good. But make no mistake the film belongs to Blanchett and Mara and the shine.
I’m really glad I saw “Carol” in the theater. Not just because it’s now been nominated for several Oscars but because it’s genuinely an excellent film. I highly recommend it for anybody who likes LGBT themed films, well made films, period pieces, films with good performances or any of the actors featured.
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