Carol

Carol ★★★★★

Todd Haynes directs this multi-Oscar-nominated adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s ground-breaking 1950s novel of the same name, in which a wealthy married woman (Cate Blanchett) falls in love with a younger woman (Rooney Mara) who works in a department store.

Todd Haynes’s previous film set in the 1950s was the absolutely superb Far from Heaven with Julianne Moore brilliant in the lead role.

Haynes made that film as a tribute to director Douglas Sirk, whose three major films that he did in the 1950s (All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind and Imitation of Life are considered to be his three best pieces of work.

Now, 13 years after Far from Heaven, Todd Haynes is going back to the 1950s again – this time 1952 to be exact – for an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt (which was later renamed Carol) and was ground-breaking at the time because of the subject that the novel and this film deal with – lesbianism.

So I can tell that this film will not be to everyone’s taste and I fully understand why and respect it at the same time.

In Manhattan, Carol (Cate Blanchett) is a wealthy housewife and mother who is unhappily married to Harge (Kyle Chandler), while Therese is a photographer who works in a department store and is putting off making an honest man out of her boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy). When Therese spots Carol in her department store, the two form a bond very quickly that soon turns into a love affair that has complicated consequences.

Cate Blanchett gives one of the best performances of her career – her best since she won her second Academy Award for Best Actress for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine – as the title character Carol, acting like she was born to play the part and she suits the role so well, she really does. No-one else could have played the part of Carol better than Blanchett does on the screen.

Elsewhere, there is a very solid supporting performance to be had from Rooney Mara in her role as Therese, the young would-be photographer who likes Carol from the moment she sees her in her department store.

Mara gives the best performance of her career to date and this will always go down as perhaps the most memorable role of her career. She suits the role so well and definitely makes the most of the time she has on the screen.

Even though the performances from Kyle Chandler and Jake Lacy in their respective roles as Harge and Richard are good, they are overshadowed by the excellent performances from Blanchett and Mara – I do feel a little sorry for the two actors.

The direction from Haynes is excellent because he allows the facial expressions to be seen to a strong effect throughout, while also keeping a tense atmosphere happening as well.

The script is written to an excellent standard by Phyllis Nagy as she makes the film really easy to follow from start to finish. She certainly knows the novel of the same name very well indeed.

The technical elements of the film are very impressive, with the set, cinematography, music and costume all standing out best – the set is very decent to look at; the camera makes very good use of the locations the movie uses and also captures the tense moments well, getting the edge-of-the-seat status; the music is very enjoyable to listen to; the costumes are excellently designed by Sandy Powell (who also designed the excellent costumes in the very enjoyable live-action adaptation of Cinderella which was also made in the year of this release).

One scene in the film involves Therese watching Billy Wilder’s classic film Sunset Boulevard with Gloria Swanson and William Holden. This was included because it is Phyllis Nagy’s all-time favourite movie and she likes the character of Joe (Holden) a lot.

This film was nominated for the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and received a 10 minute standing ovation – that gave a very strong indication that there must be something good about Carol – and my goodness there definitely is.

The movie managed to win six Academy Award nominations: Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), Best Supporting Actress (Rooney Mara), Best Adapted Screenplay (Phyllis Nagy), Best Cinematography (Edward Lachman), Best Original Score (Carter Burwell) and Best Costume Design (Sandy Powell). While those nominations were deserved, I strongly believe that the movie was very unlucky not to have been nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Production Design.

At the British Academy Film Awards, the movie was nominated for: Best Film, Best Director (Todd Haynes), Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), Best Supporting Actress (Rooney Mara), Best Adapted Screenplay (Phyllis Nagy), Best Production Design (Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hair (Jerry DeCario and Patricia Regan).

I am thrilled that the British Academy nominated Carol for Best Film and Best Director in particular, but all of those nominations were deserved. However, I do feel that this was unlucky to have not been nominated in the Best British Film category (as this is a Film4-backed film).

At the Golden Globes, the movie deservedly won nominations for: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director – Motion Picture (Todd Haynes), Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) and Best Original Score (Carter Burwell). This was very unlucky not to have got a Best Screenplay nomination.

So, 20 major award nominations and absolutely zero wins. I therefore consider this film to be one of the unluckiest movies in terms of major awards – not just in awards season of 2016 – but of all time.

Overall, Carol is one absolutely brilliant adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name, thanks to the superb and central performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, along with Todd Haynes’s excellent direction and Phyllis Nagy’s well written script. The film also works very well due to the fantastic technical elements and it would have been good to see the movie win at least one major award.

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