There's a scene in the movie Carol where actress Cate Blanchett is sitting in a diner pinning over her lost love. I actually know this restaurant. You see this movie was filmed in my hometown of Cincinnati. Today, that diner no longer exists. But it made think about the people who worked there, the waitress that served me, and Bill, the owner. Now, they've faded away and there is disappointment that I didn't get to say goodbye or have one last conversation. It's just a segment of my life that has passed. Maybe, it's the characters in Carol that made me feel that way. Their longing for happiness. The regret.
The movie is based on Patricia Highsmith's novel, The Price of Salt. It takes place in 1952, New York City. Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a sales clerk at a department store. It's Christmas time. Wealthy socialite Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) is shopping for a doll for her daughter. They don't have the doll she's looking for but Therese suggests a train set since she is a fan of that kind of toy. They seem to be attracted to each other. Carol buys one and has it sent to her home however she leaves her gloves at the store.
Therese mails the gloves back to her and Carol uses the gesture to invite Therese to her home. While there, Carol shows that she is interested in Therese in more than a platonic way. Unfortunately, Carol's husband, Harge, (Kyle Chandler) arrives and we find out that the marriage is in distress because Carol's previous lesbian affair. At risk because of Carol's lesbianism is custody of their daughter.
Director Todd Haynes has created a movie that feels like 1952. It also reflects films of that time. There are interior scenes with film noir conventions. Light reflected through blind curtains. He and cinematographer Edward Lachman have drained color from the film, thereby giving a faded and thus dated look. Many of the scenes look like they are from a Edward Hopper painting. It gives the movie a feeling of the past, not just the character's past but it makes the viewer think of his past. Haynes also doesn't over-direct. He let's the story dictate. There is very little fast cutting and there's some old school cover shots. Haynes' direction allows the audience to focus on the compelling story.
Cate Blanchett as the conflicted Carol is her usual solid self. She maintains a cold exterior yet she has lesbian desire while struggling to retain custody of her daughter. I don't know if this is a problem but I will say Blanchett's glamour and beauty many times overwhelm a scene. Rooney Mara gets to really stretch her acting chops her. She plays Therese as a naive woman who has lesbian leanings while suppressing them. Her looks and grace remind me of Audrey Hepburn. She's the second actress in a year that has reminded me of Hepburn. The first being in Elizabeth Debicki. (The Man From The U.N.C.L.E. 2015)
My only problem with this movie is the lack of dialogue. Yes, you heard that right. This movie actually needs more dialogue. I'm talking about two scenes. The first being the meeting between Carol and Therese at Carol's home. There needed more conversation between the two women to build up the attraction between the two. The second occurs at a later time which I won't discuss it in detail since it contains spoilers. But again it's a meeting between Therese and Carol. This absolutely needed more dialogue from Therese to explain her motivation and feelings. Shots of Rooney Mara's face doesn't let me know what she is thinking. Still, none of this hurts the film significantly.
Carol is a film about a time where homosexuality was considered immoral, a psychological disease. It's an emotional story about two women who struggle to live with their love when the world is against their very happiness. It's heart wrenching and well told. The grade is B Plus.