Take a Drink: for every lingering touch
Take a Drink: every time a man tries to assert his authority or will
Take a Drink: for photographs
Take a Drink: for eye contact across rooms
Do a Shot: when you realize Cate Blanchett is probably physically stronger than you
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
I’ve been a bad boy, leaving this review unfinished for almost two weeks. In the interim I got my introductory hook, though- just this week Carol became the film with the most Oscar nominations (6) to not get a Best Picture nod since the new voting rules were instituted. That’s pure buffalo chips.
Not the good kind.
Carol follows the tentative romance between a young shopgirl, Therese (Rooney Mara), and a rich, decorous society woman, Carol (Cate Blanchett). However, it’s the 1950s, and Carol is in the midst of a divorce from her headstrong husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), and Therese has a near-fiancee of her own, Dick (Jake Lacy), so… drama’s afoot.
Wow, where to start? Perhaps the leads, evoking their own respective Hepburns. Blanchett is Katherine, proper, reserved, dignified up to the very line of haughtiness, but sensitive and wounded beneath that exterior, and learning that showing some of that vulnerability is key to reserving the relationships she values. Mara is Audrey, all Roman Holiday raw innocence to start, but who learns to be tough and take what she wants instead of deferring to the wishes and plans of others. The chemistry between the two is dynamite, somehow more so when communicated through slight glances and small touches.
This glance is hotter than the entirety of Fifty Shades of Grey
Every element of this production under director Todd Haynes’s measured control is top-notch. The production design, costuming, and hair & makeup all combine to bring to life a 1950s that is very distinct from Haynes’s other excellent 1950s domestic drama, Far From Heaven. This is no Douglas Sirk technicolor dream. This is a 1950s that feels living and breathing, and entirely realistic. Cinematographer Edward Lachman’s photography of these elements is immaculate, full of gorgeous contrasts of light and color, all rendered with a palpable film grain that just accentuates that 50s feel.
Oh, I forgot about the supporting cast. Chandler could easily be seen as the villain of the piece, and in a lot of ways acts like one, but as he cracks, particularly in a climactic scene across a lawyer’s table from Blanchett, we see a man who doesn’t have any of the control his position in this point in history he believes affords him, who is scared by this, who just doesn’t know what to do. Sarah Paulson, as Carol’s former lover and defiantly out best friend, is excellent, and Carrie Brownstein steals the spotlight in her couple of minutes of screentime. Finally, Lacy is also quite good as the boyfriend who’s got everything figured out, except why his girlfriend is so hesitant to follow along with all of his carefully laid plans.
Dick? No thank you.
I’d feel worse about that joke if I didn’t think it was intentional. This is a screenplay that sets its one jarring slap of a twist in Waterloo, Iowa, after all. Speaking of that script, Phyllis Nagy knows exactly how to convey a mountain of emotion with a minimum of verbiage. This, along with Carter Burwell’s elegant score, sneaks up up on you until you find yourself lifted as if by a tide towards a wholly earned emotional climax you had no idea you were so invested in.
Carol keeps up its reserve, its shoulders-length distance, a bit too long. When the passion starts to bubble up through that facade, the film becomes something truly spectacular, but until then (and even lasting past, say, the sex scene) you feel the longueurs.
It is nearly impossible to identify another film from this year with such uniformly high quality in almost every facet of movie making or more in tune with the subtleties of human behavior. If you thought it was too cold, go watch a Nicholas Sparks movie.