Not once salacious, Todd Haynes‘ Carol is a subtle and elegant telling of a romance between two women in the 1950s. Cate Blanchett is the title character and Rooney Mara is the young woman smitten by her. Their affair is brief but not without it’s repercussions.
Todd Haynes knows a little something about 1950s style from Far From Heaven and the mini-series, Mildred Pierce. He captures this era with incredible detail in everything from the costumes to set design to the color coming across on screen. Blanchett’s outfits are absolutely stunning and they convey the level of sophistication of her character.
As for cinematography, all I can say is, WOW. There are so many allusions to hiding and the Liz pointed out the use of windows is especially worth noting. It’s almost as if the film was shot for black and white, but it’s in color. The framing of each scene is focused, yet reveals so much of the story.
Now for the story. While I did appreciate the style, the story was really flat and underwhelming. There’s barely any idea of the affair being forbidden and no one seems to pretend it’s not what it clearly is. Perhaps it’s just hard to think of an affair between two women as an outlandish idea anymore. On one side, I really appreciated this about it, but on another, it really loses something by not illustrating how much of a big deal it was.
Blanchett melts into Carol, but I had a hard time with Rooney as the love interest. That deer-in-headlights look only goes so far. Kyle Chandler was impressive as Carol’s husband evoking a desperation that’s completely transparent.
It may not be the Oscar contender for Best Picture, but certainly could get a nomination for Costume Design. Standby tickets available for tonight’s screening at Lincoln Center.