Sparks always fly at the toy store. Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a young department store clerk, working in 1950’s Manhattan, New York. She has a steady boyfriend, Richard (Jake Lacy), who so desperately wants to vacation out to Europe and make Therese his wife. While flattered, Therese desires more and isn’t ready to commit to Rich yet, and still harbors dreams of being a photographer.
One day at the store, she meets Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), a well-off and elegant woman who has an aura about her that is impossible to resist. Immediately, a connection is born, and the two become inseparable. Complicating matters are Carol’s husband and reluctant divorcee Harge (Kyle Chandler), and their battle over custody of their child. But, love finds a way, right?
As Keith over at Keith & the Movies opined, from the get-go, Carol is a movie that simply looks polished and primed for awards time. Obviously, this piece is coming days after Carol was shut out of the Golden Globes, but five nominations, even without one win, still means that Carol did its job. Did it do its job in making yours truly care about it? I wish I could say yes.
At the very least, Carol comes outfitted with great and workmanlike acting from the two co-leads, which is to be expected with Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. The two play well off of each other, feel believable as character polar opposites, and are extremely brave and fully committed to their roles. It’s hard to find anything to have real gripes with, and if either receive Oscar noms (Editor’s note: Both have), they would be earned.
If one looked to be a stronger lock than the other for their nominated category, I’d say Blanchett has the stronger case. Her character is not only the obvious title of the movie, but she does bring a mysterious magnetism to her that makes Mara dull by comparison. But I suppose that is the point, though I believe Cate would be harder to replace in her role than Rooney. Sarah Paulson also does well, and though Kyle Chandler is awfully one-note, he does the best he can with what is given. The only weak link happens to be Jake Lacy. For some reason, it is hard for me not to see him still as Plop from season nine of The Office.
Carol does have good, but unmemorable directorial style. Directed by Todd Haynes (I’m Not There), it certainly resembles the early 50’s, from dress to the way subjects look in lighting, as the movie has got that 50’s light jazz club fuzzy haze throughout. Sadly, what it doesn’t have is a story that yours truly ever really cared about.
About 20 minutes in, I couldn’t stop thinking about Brooklyn when watching Carol. Both rely on simplicity and elegance, but only the former also achieves with actual story drama and tension, to go with characters who are written well. As well as Mara and Blanchett are, there’s little desire to see where their connection goes, or even if it will remain. Their stakes never feel that high, and something tangible never truly felt like it was on the line. The B (not so much side) stories with the custody, aunt, etc., unfortunately did little to capture the attention, or round out the leading ladies.
I really did want to like Carol, and there are pieces of it that absolutely work, namely, the performances. But, as runtime wore on, it became a exercise in viewing nothingness, one that I struggle to find the words for and care less about doing so.
Photo credits go to hypable.com, fashiongonerogue.com, and elle.com.
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Love the review. You know, I can’t figure out if I was right or wrong. Does its lack of Best Picture and Best Director noms mean the Academy found it too polished and obvious or do the omissions means it actual isn’t awards bait?
Hmm…maybe the former. I still maintain that the release date and thespians attached is a strong indicator that the movie knew what it was after.
I just don’t think it is that good, obvious or not, though. Wanted to like, but after 30 minutes, I really was disinterested and cared little about what happened.
Didn’t like it as well, gave it a 6/10. I just don’t feel Todd Haynes’s slow subtle style. Nice review!
It just wasn’t that engaging for me, either! Thanks for reading.
Nice review 🙂
Thanks Emma! What are your thoughts on this one?
Great review 🙂 Carol did not work for me either 🙂 Anyway, on my blog, I just posted my thoughts on the Oscars in a 3 part blog entry I am doing. The other two come out in February. Please feel free to read Part 1 any time you would like 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂
Thanks John! Will be checking out some of your thoughts shortly!
I might see this, might not. I really liked Brooklyn but it seems that this one isn’t as good. Good stuff mate!
I found it to be a bit of a bore to watch and talk about…though I’m admittedly not the target audience. But, I guess I could say the same about Brooklyn and I really enjoyed that one!
Yeah, exactly, I’m not the target audience for Brooklyn either but both me and my lil sis loved it. I think because its a gay romance story this is getting more points for being ‘progressive’. I could be totally wrong on that and I’m all for stories like that, but this particular one sounds rather dull.
Hah! I love how you managed to fit in a reference to ‘Plop’ from the Office. Fantastic.
Yeah I wasn’t enthralled by it either, as you already are aware. Not a bad movie by any means but the film failed to really resonate. Isn’t that the point of making movies, to get audiences to latch on and feel something?
Good point about feeling something…anything? At least when a film is bad, it’ll make you feel something. Rage, disappointment,etc.
With Carol, it was just there for me, so empty and devoid. I had a lot of trouble getting my thoughts on this, I believe simply because I didn’t care. Great performances, but I cared nothing about the story after 20-30 minutes in.
I had to with The Office lol. I’m sure Lacy is a good guy, and it isn’t like Pete was a major character with a noticeable personality. But I cannot see him now in anything without seeing Plop. He’s gonna have to work hard imo to shake that.
Absolutely agree.. Slow movie with really good acting..reminding me of The Danish Girl in that aspect. Not a fan of Rooney Mara’s – but I actually really liked her here.. and her character etc.. so that was for me, one of the few pluses!!
Strong acting, but like I alluded to I didn’t care anything for the script by around the 20-30 minute mark. Was kinda bored with this early. Thought it was going to be a best pic nom so that is the reason why I watched.