Style over substance …
Star – Cate Blanchett
Genre – Drama
Run Time – 118 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – USA
Oscars – 6 nominations
Awards – 73 Wins & 239 Nominations
Amazon – £5.00 DVD £8.58 Blue Ray
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There is no better feeling in the world when you really fancy someone across the room and they reciprocate with the same pupil expansion as you check each other out there after to see if they are still looking. Then you confidently stroll over and make effortless conversation and live happily ever after. In reality you look at your shoes, bottle it, and go home empty handed cursing yourself for not saying hi. That frustration is called evolution, only the brave moving the gene pool forward on that particular night. But what if the same sex is checking you out and your heart is racing and you have feelings back for them, even though you are as straight as Steve Davis snooker cue, the subject of this sumptuous and award winning lesbian love story. But this is Hollywood so only beautiful women tend to get it on with each other in the movies, the strikingly beautiful Cate Blanchett and rising talent Rooney Mara locking lips here. In lesbian relationship in the real world, of course, one of them tends to look like a bloke for some reason and presumably a surreptitious male substitute. They tend not to do butch-femme in the movies and the classy film ‘Bound’ about as close as we got to that.
Cate Blanchett has increasingly become an Oscar chaser of late as she selects her serious films after being tied into the Hobbit nonsense for ten years, 6 nominations and two wins (Jasmine and The Aviator) so far. Her co-star and lover in the film, Rooney Mara, is also nominated here, and her second nom so far, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, the other. There was some confusion as Mara is actually on screen more than Blanchett and has more lines but was bumped to Best Supporting Actress. Blanchett is also hinting at her ambiguous sexuality again through her movies and TV box sets of late the way Kevin Spacey does and in a coquettish and teasing mood here for this highly acclaimed love story that earned six Oscar nominations. The character of Blanchett’s, Carol Aird in the film was inspired by Virginia Kent Catherwood (1915-1966), a Philadelphia socialite six years older than then shop girl and soon to be author Patricia Highsmith (Rooney) with whom had a love affair in the 1940s, retold in Highsmiths’s book The Price of Salt.
Cate Blanchett ... Carol Aird
Rooney Mara ... Therese Belivet
Chandler ... Harge Aird
Sarah Paulson ... Abby Gerhard
Jake Lacy ... Richard Semco
John Magaro ... Dannie McElroy
Cory Michael Smith ... Tommy Tucker
Kevin Crowley ... Fred Haymes
Nik Pajic ... Phil McElroy
Carrie Brownstein ... Genevieve Cantrell
Trent Rowland ... Jack Taft
Sadie Heim ... Rindy Aird
It’s snowy Manhattan in 1952 and the Christmas season is in full swing, aspiring photographer and writer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) working in Frankenberg's department store in Manhattan to make ends meet. There she catches the admiring glance of a glamorous woman, Carol Aird (Blanchett), who is searching for a doll for her daughter Rindy (Sadie Heim). At Therese's recommendation, Carol purchases a model train set, the star attraction of the toy department. When Carol goes she leaves her gloves on the counter. Therese mails them and the sales slip to Carol's name and address.
Therese's handsome boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy) wants her to go to France with him, hoping they will marry and start a new life there, but she is ambivalent about their relationship, especially after the unexpected attraction to the lady in the store. Carol is also suffering relationship issues and going through a difficult divorce from her neglectful husband, Harge (Chandler).
Carol calls Frankenberg's to thank the clerk who returned the gloves and an excuse to invite Therese to lunch. They get on like a house on fire as the simmering sexual chemistry begins to bubble but not yet acted on. Satisfied of the attraction, Carol then invites Therese to her home in New Jersey for Christmas. But Harge arrives unexpectedly to take Rindy to Florida for Christmas, becoming suspicious of Therese as Carol had an affair years before with her female friend Abby (Sarah Paulson). Therese hears them arguing and when Rindy leaves with her dad; a distressed Carol takes Therese to the train station so she can return home. But a seed has been sewn in Carol’s husbands mind on how he can use this situation to get sole custody of his daughter as things get dirty. But for Therese she is in love with this sophisticated beautiful woman and prepared to lay herself on the line to be with her, if Carol is prepared to do the same.
My kind of lesbian flicks are a bit racier than this with a bit more lipstick but as it was on Film4 for free so I thought I would check it out. These sumptuous period romantic dramas with very correct acting and etiquette are not my thing but I do like Blanchett so why not. It’s one of those immaculate looking and presented films with a List A Oscar star in it that The Academy love, and feel should be nominated in various slots because its represents what’s best in them, which doesn’t always mean its an entertaining movie. This is one of those hyped movies. The fact all six Oscar nominations failed to score suggests although the love story is tenderly handled the actual film is rather dull. Occasionally it needs to be slapped back to life with Carol’s expensive leather gloves.
It didn’t win because it’s really “an actor’s film” and that it’s only quality and texture. The love story is OK and Blanchett on good form abut for me Rooney is the better performance because she exploits the social class divide here to greater effect, the real taboo of the movie. The forbidden sexual body language is fairly convincing between the two but not quite in the way it was in the brilliant ‘The Remains of the Day’ between housekeeper Emma Thompson and head butler Anthony Hopkins. If it had been like that then maybe this film would have worked for me. It may all be in the nuance for the critics and a glance here and a touch of the wrist there but for me I need a movie and something to get my teeth into.
It cost $12 million to make and did $40 million back, half that from the Oscar publicity, a third of the $12 million budget spent on that on a publicity machine to pitch it for Oscars. These days Oscar nominated films are released close to the nominations cut off time in January so they don’t spend too much time in cinemas to be picked apart by you and me, a handful of super critics really doing the picking, The Academy voters going along with it to avoid watching all the films on the first shortlist. For me is yet another one of those Oscar films that looks good, well cast but not very entertaining.
Imdb.com – 7.2/10.0 (77,432votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 94% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 95% critic’s approval
Boston Globe –‘Haynes maintains the film's temperature at a low simmer and expertly brings it to the boil, but while "Carol" builds to a scene of intense eroticism, it's mostly about all the things you can't reach out and touch’.
The New republic –‘This is about two people who didn't know what their lives were until they met each other, then scrambling, in their muted, buttoned-up way, to figure out what happens next. Haynes loves them so much that he believes they can. You will too’.
Chicago Reader –‘As a love story this left me unsatisfied, though I enjoyed the lush period trappings and the flattering sense of how enlightened I am compared to people in the 1950s’.
San Diego Reader –‘The lesbian affair at its heart is rendered with intelligence and care, and if there are speeches to be made, they are happily few, and far more personal than political/.
The Mail –‘So enraptured was I by the look of the movie, I was almost able to overlook the fact that we don't actually get a lot of dialogue between the two women’
Film Inquirer –‘A film for anybody who has ever fallen in and out of love, dealing with hopeless infatuation and the slow transition to the messy reality that all but threatens to burn out the initial spark, Carol is more than just a gorgeously crafted period piece’.
The Sun –‘To call Carol a Christmas miracle feels like a gaudy understatement, but that's sort of exactly what it is’.