Thursday, January 7, 2016

Carol (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Carol” An Elegant Women’s Romance 
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

The books of Patricia Highsmith have given us a number of familiar movies -- Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers On a Train,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “The Two Faces of January.” Murder was a common theme.

But “Carol” -- the new Todd Haynes film based on Highsmith’s novel “The Price of Salt” -- has nary a dead body. Given its sensual theme, she published it under the pseudonym of “Claire Morgan.”

Later she admitted authorship. And the title was changed for the movie.

In many ways this is an old-fashioned film, a lush melodrama about a complicated romance like found in, say, “Brief Encounter” (1945). But here, the thwarted love affair is between two women, and the cinematography isn’t shadowy black and white, but rather rainy city scenes painted in muted colors as seen through windows and reflected by mirrors. Keeping the viewer at a safe distance.

Cate Blanchett is the titular Carol, sort of a Deborah Kerr type. And Rooney Mara is Therese, looking like a young Audrey Hepburn.

Set in 1950s New York, Carol and Therese meet in a department store’s toy department, where the younger woman is working as a temporary salesclerk during the Christmas season. Carol leaves her gloves behind; Therese returns them; Carol invites her to lunch. There’s an attraction, but they must be cautious. Carol is going through a divorce; Therese has a serious boyfriend.

But yet …

Carol takes a cross-country automobile trip, inviting Therese along. Their idyllic journey takes them to Chicago, where they settle in for a romantic interlude at the Palmer House. But the tryst is interrupted. Carol’s husband has decided to use the custody of their child to bring his straying wife back in line.

Are hearts to be broken?

A quiet drab beauty, Therese is the opposite of elegant, sophisticated Carol. And Mara and Blanchett play their respective roles flawlessly, an ingénue in awe of the perfectly coiffed woman who occupies a secure place in a world that she can only glimpse from afar -- or through the lens of her camera.

But what if …

You can find “Carol” screening at Tropic Cinema.

This is certainly a woman’s movie, focusing on the hopeful love story between Therese and Carol. The men, mainly Carol’s angry husband (terrifically played by Kyle Chandler) and Therese’s clueless boyfriend (Jake Lacy), are secondary, relegated to the sidelines to glare and grumble as they watch the sexual landscape shift.

Although Highsmith’s 1952 book was told from Therese’s point-of-view, the movie’s storytelling is more balanced. Yet, this is undeniably Blanchett’s movie, as signaled by the use of the name “Carol” as its title rather than “The Price of Salt.” Her performance is even more nuanced and subtly revealing than “Blue Jasmine,” the role that won her an Oscar.

Nonetheless, Rooney Mara holds her own with Blanchett. While her part in “The Social Network” was minimal and in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” quirky, here she’s a real flesh-and-blood woman, found naked in bed with Blanchett.

Acting or not, Cate Blanchett says she’s had relationships with women “many times” … although not sexual. After all, she a married mother of four in real life.

But on screen …

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