Carol (2015) | Best Actress | Cannes 2015 | LFF 2015

May 18th, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Todd Haynes

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler

Patricia Highsmith’s novels make striking thrillers: Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr Ripley and The Two Faces of January have become screen classics. The eagerly-awaited CAROL, which premieres at Cannes, is a perfect screen adaptation of one of her more romantic stories. Two remarkable performances, by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, who picked up the Best Actress award, make CAROL particularly enjoyable. They play elegant fifties women caught in the seductive embrace of a lesbian relationship. Todd Haynes’ lush and leisurely adaptation of The Price of Salt, which was seen as rather daring at the time, now seems rather coy and kittenish, although Blanchett certainly wears the trousers in both her heterosexual marriage and an outré lesbian flutter. This is a luxuriously affair that unfolds rather tentatively during Christmas 1952 in a snowy New York heralding the Eisenhower era.

Phyllis Nagy’s clever screenplay clings close to the page while conjuring up the younger woman’s profession as photography rather than theatre set direction. It also retains the open, rather positive ending of Highsmith’s novel. The story opens in a New York department store (akin to Bloomingdales). Mara plays the young Therese Belivet who is meets Carol Aird –  a creamy, mink-wrapped Blanchett – buying Christmas presents for her little girl, Rindy. A perfect excuse for further contact is provided when Carol leaves her gloves on the counter, and later invites the gamine-like Therese to her turreted New Jersey home. But the two finally meet in town over eggs and martinis. A chemistry of sorts develops through the velvety visuals of Ed Lachman’s camerawork (he shot in 16ml and blew the images up to look like 35ml) and Haynes’ competent direction – they worked together on Mildred Pierce and Far From Heaven – so you get the picture.

Carol’s successful businessman husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), is seeking a divorce due to her previous affair with her childhood friend Abby (Sarah Paulson) but he still loves his wife and threatens to get custody of Rindy. But Carol’s mind is made up and she pursues Therese with masculine determination in a highly seductive role made all the more teasing in the rather languid pacing that takes in a multitude of changes in her gorgeous couture wardrobe (Sandy Powell excels in her designs). The two finally end up in a tastefully soft-focused, semi-nude embrace in Waterloo, Iowa, and Carol acknowledges the bathos of this location.

But their crime (and it was a crime in 1952) is captured on camera by a travelling ‘notions’ salesman and Carol swiftly extricates herself from the relationship. Blanchett plays her Carol as a woman of infinite breeding and stylish charm, occasionally looking down her nose but always with a witty grace. Mara is more cutely foxy with those exotic, piercing eyes. The delux experience is gift-wrapped in soigné sets and and an atmospheric period score from Carter Burwell. MT

Rooney Mara won Best Actress for her role at Cannes 2015 | The Golden Frog apAward for Best Cinematography (Ed Lachman) at the prestigious Camerimage Awards 2015


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