Saturday, July 2, 2016

New(ish) Release: Carol (2015)

Carol (2015)

Director: Todd Haynes

Extremely well-done drama that subtly looks at the quieter ways in which social misfits can anguish.

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, far better known for her "Ripley" crime novels, Carol was one of her few works of almost pure drama. It tells the tale of a romance between the title character Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) and a 20-something store clerk, Therese (pronounced "Ter-rez" and played by Rooney Mara). The time period is the U.S. in the 1950s, and Carol is a woman with a husband and daughter. The couple, however, are in the process of divorcing due to a homosexual love affair which Carol had with a family friend several years earlier. This is where Carol's life is when the main story begins, and it is then that Carol meets Therese at the department store at which she works. Therese is an aspiring photographer with real talent, and she becomes rather taken by the mature, sophisticated, and beautiful Carol.

What follows is a slow, thoughtful, and subtly heartbreaking romance made virtually impossible by a close-minded society. While the story of repression of homosexuality is hardly a new idea in drama, Carol presents it as well as nearly any film could. The characters are extremely well-rounded. Both Therese and Carol, while generally likable and sometimes even admirable, are hardly without their faults. Therese exhibits plenty of the inarticulate angst that nearly all of us exhibited when we were her age. Carol can be more than a little haughty at times, and she shows poor judgement more than once in the tale. But these faults, rather than make the characters unappealing, merely lend an authenticity to them. They are neither heroes nor villains, but they are clearly human beings with desires and feelings which get battered by the small-mindedness of others.

The film is stunningly shot. Nearly any serious review you read will mention how visually impressive it is, and I am in no position to refute that. The warm colors, brilliant costumes, and set pieces all help to create many shots which could be hung on a museum wall. It put me in mind of another film drama, also released in 2015 and also set in the 1950s, Brooklyn. While Carol is more tragic than Brooklyn, they are two films that could not be any easier on the eyes.

I won't ever feel the need to see this movie again, but its praise and Oscar Best Picture nomination were well-earned. I recommend it to those who are in the mood for an extremely well-crafted drama with more than a touch of despair.