Carol

Carol

Todd Haynes’ film was nominated for six Oscars and was jobbed out of every last one, including a few that it wasn’t up for. It might seem in questionable taste to bring up awards when talking about a film as rigorous and lavishly emotional as Carol, but it’s one of those pictures that makes you notice all its artisans’ work, from propmasters to painters, from the masterly concision of the writing to the costumers’ precision, on down the line, every last bit of it, the care taken to recreate this womb-world where people played 78s and drove drunk with their kids in the back seat. You appreciate it so—love it so—that your back tends to get up when you run into someone who doesn’t feel similarly. The leads are pitched just right; Rooney Mara’s lightly tremulous Therese, with her increasing inability to abide men’s demands on her, so much so that she’s nearly jumping out of her skin at their insinuations, is “flung out of space” into the path of Cate Blanchett’s Carol, whose martini-lunch bearing is being shredded by a divorce and a legal fight for her daughter. (Blanchett’s line readings are as haunting as a smoke eddy, and when she loses it, never tips over into divadom; when asked if she knows what she’s doing regarding Therese, her quiet response of “I never did” seems the fulcrum of the film’s prevailing mood.) The director’s attunement to the women even extends to the blocking; his keen stratagem of constantly placing figures (mostly men) in Therese and Carol’s way subliminally works on you, and his little visual detours, such as a set of closeups giving way to a montage made of lovely, positively avant-garde out-of-focus dissolves, are plainly beautiful. He’s the perfect director for this material. Time will tell if Carol has the resonances of a classic, much less a masterpiece, though I suspect it will. In the meantime, any day we can see it in a theater is a happy one, as we await the day Chicagoans will be able to see the single 35mm print Haynes and cinematographer Ed Lachman paid for out of pocket.

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