Saturday, December 26


Directed by Todd Haynes
2015 Drama
1 hour 58 minutes
From The Weinstein Company

Cate Blanchett
Rooney Mara
Sarah Paulson
Kyle Chandler
Jake Lacy

Ok, two movies in a row with a woman's first name as the title and something is starting to occur to me.  If I wasn't especially disappointed in Joy it's because I half-expected it to not hit the mark somehow but I didn't see that coming at all for Carol.  If I believed all the hoopla and awards or nominations so far, I would be expecting quite the little indy movie triumph.  But alas, we walked out saying did we see the same movie others have fallen all over themselves for?

I gave it two stars so it's not a washout and I give many films I like two stars but for me it's a low two.  Far and away the issue is the mind-numbingly slow first hour.  Was no editing done for that hour's worth?  Did any of those responsible (director? editor?) find any life in those characters?  Everyone spoke in a monotone... I could not distinguish elation from disappointment.  Isn't pacing one of the chapter headings in the Editor's Manual?  It took these characters five minutes to get through a sentence.  They weren't walking, they were sleep-walking.  A patron walking out just ahead of me said to no one in particular... that was leisurely.  No, no, I know leisurely and this was closer to stopped.  The cuckolded husband added some fire to the proceedings, but not nearly enough.

Some art house films are those because they are independent productions with little money to spend and I encourage all to see. Many of them are sparkling little gems...  some of my favorite films.  But once in awhile some art house film just takes itself so seriously.  It has much of what I have already described and adds to it a fascination with minutia and slow camera movement as we take in every dull item the camera can showcase.  In lieu of rich dialogue, there is lots of staring.  These kinds of movies are why art house films can get such a bad name.  They're the movie version of elevator music.  I don't blame people who want to stay away from them.

Beyond viewers who are lesbian or gay or perhaps enormous Cate Blanchett fans (I am two of those), I'm not sure there will be a lot of interest in Carol.  Once Oscar buzz dies down, there's no appeal here for the general public.

Blanchett herself is part of the problem.  I suppose as one of the producers she wanted to make an arty film about lesbians that would add more glitter to her crown but it didn't happen.  The Carol character is not particularly understandable and what little is understandable isn't so likeable.  She's wealthy (or her husband is), loves her daughter, doesn't love him, had earlier lesbian relationships and that's about it.  But what's behind all of that?  Where was the character development?  Instead we get shot after shot of one of them staring at the other one, sans dialogue. 

Maybe I just can't get out of my gay head and our ways of doing things or perhaps I don't realize how difficult gay relationships were in the 50s but, my goodness, it took these women forevvvvver to get to it.  Yes, it.  If that's really the way it is, fine, but it should be less drawn out for a film.  Cinematically, we were kept waiting too long.

I don't think a third Oscar is coming Blanchett's way.  She has done much better work.  Rooney Mara, whose noctambulist acting style usually leaves me cold, actually scores the best in the proceedings with a modicum of aliveness and a character that is better written than Blanchett's.

I have no way of knowing how much Phyllis Nagy's screenplay changed from Patricia Highsmith's novel but the latter knows how to turn out a phrase or two when one considers she wrote the clever gay opus, The Talented Mr. Ripley.  It's noted that Blanchett was featured in that film as well.

Todd Haynes wrote and directed the very fine Far from Heaven so he more than capably moves around in the gay arena but Carol is not a worthy followup.  I am with him all the way on his love of the 1950s and Carol's time frame is roughly the mid 50s-mid 60s.  The decade is well represented here in terms of the look (cars, clothes, interiors, etc.) and also from some solid music from those days.

Tuesday, my last posting for 2015, will be another movie review.  Again, I am hopeful.

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