Carol ★★★★

Part of:
2016 Oscars Wishlist
2015 Feature Films: RANKED
Movies I Saw in Theaters

“Just when it can’t get any worse, you run out of cigarettes.”

Todd Haynes’ 2015 romantic drama Carol is precise filmmaking at its most precise. It is so easy, in this age, to forget what a moment of love can look like on the screen. Haynes reminds us how strongly these true moments of love demand to be cherished when finally found. And for this project, he could not have picked a better story, nor a more perfect cast. Phyllis Nagy’s excellent script narrates one of the more touching Hollywood love stories in recent memory.

And the cast. Holy moly, it seems as though the roles were written for Blanchett and Mara. Cate and Rooney positively become their characters -- one shy and in a stage of self-discovery, the other a confident, experienced woman who knows what she wants. Never has this combination, or variations of it, failed to excite the romantic within every member of its audience. These two women play masters in their own lives, but when with one another their roles shift into something not quite visible. Cate Blanchett’s Carol does not take the assumed role of commander -- her age has made her more experienced, but none the wiser. Mara’s Therese is superbly confused of her own circumstances as well -- never quite sure of herself enough to commit, nor bold enough to commit to being noncommittal.

What a treat it really is to watch something so magical as this love story unfold on the big screen. Haynes’ direction is steady, and captivating, while only slipping a few times into something a little sloppier than I may have been prepared for. Any misstep that he made, however, could feasibly have been corrected by a more even script, whose story arc takes a more direct route to its conclusion. Unfortunately, these slip-ups remain uncorrected, and near the midpoint of the film there are just a few moments that I really did not care for. Snip, snip if you ask me, but you didn’t.

And then there are those two things that seem to have people buzzing to no end: the cinematography and the score. Both are aspects of any film that have the power to make it or break it in the end. And both are aspects of Carol, in particular, which shine extremely bright. Man, if I had a nickle for every shot through a car window in this film, I still wouldn’t have as much money I would pay to see this again on the big screen. The visual motifs present in Carol could be described as mopey, dreary, optimistic, dream-like, and Christmas-y, but never unoriginal or dull. Each and every frame is a portrait of something larger than life. Something immensely endearing and lovely. And the score simply complements the visuals with a cheerful candor that is truly indescribable.

I think I smiled through the entirety of the first act. I looked like an idiot.

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