Starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, and Kyle Chandler
Directed by Todd Haynes
The way that Blanchett and Mara play their characters, the way Haynes films them, and the way Phyllis Nagy pens her script showcase an obvious infatuation between Carol and Therese -- the former whose husband (Kyle Chandler) has known of his wife's dalliances with other women and the latter who herself didn't know her attraction to women, let alone her boyfriend (Jake Lacy) being aware of her predilections. While the film isn't completely about Carol and Therese "doing the deed" and consummating their relationship, the knowing glances (by the cast), the subtle flirtations (surely in the script), and blatant lensing of the director keep building up to this inevitable moment which, by the time it finally rolls around, feels hokey as opposed to passionate. The way this piece is structured, crafted, and acted, there needed to be a payoff and that simply doesn't happen here.
Part of the reason behind that is due to the fact that the lead actresses -- both nominated for Oscars -- are frankly overpraised and underwhelming. There is certainly a time for scenery chewing and Blanchett can chew with the best of them -- just look at Cinderella for an example where she can showcase this talent with aplomb. Here, her Carol feels like a caricature -- the way she talks, the way she moves, the way she emotes -- none of it feels based in any form of reality. Mara, on the other hand, is a blank slate, rarely showing emotion, forcing me to ask myself the question of why Carol ever became infatuated with her in the first place. Granted, I give Mara a bit of credit, however, in that her Therese is just coming in touch with her true self in this relationship with Carol so her moments of blankness or seeming cluelessness are grounded at least in the roots of her character.
Personally, I think the film looks disappointing as well. As I watched, I couldn't help but feel that is was distractingly grainy. I legitimately thought it was an issue with the projection system, but upon researching things when I came home, the film was shot on 16mm film and while I'm all for different film aspects (see Steve Jobs as a brilliant example of how to properly use them), this style was off-putting here.
I didn't go into Carol expecting a sexualized lesbian drama so there's no disappointment in that department. Instead, I wanted a story between two characters that took us on their journey to either happiness, sadness, or something in between. Unfortunately, this is a journey that isn't well crafted. While Carol certainly touches on the trials, travails, and struggles facing women like Carol and Therese in the early 1950s (and the best moments in the film deal with Carol's husbands attempts to take full custody of their daughter), the lifelessness of everything onscreen failed to draw me in and really capture my attention.
The RyMickey Rating: C-