As it happens every year, this year I find myself lacking in the Best Actress potential nominee department. Somehow these films with strong lady leads allude me, it is probably cause I am a man.
But damn it, this year I got to see Carol before they announced Oscar nominations. Sure, it might presumptuous for me to assume that it will get nominated for anything, but it literally received two nominations for Best Actress for the Spirit Awards. One film, two spots of the five. That is pretty damn good. I admire that they didn’t try to shoe horn one of their leads into a supporting actress role, like plenty of films attempt depending on how crowded a potential category is. And after all, competing against yourself must feel a bit awkward. But for 40% of the nominees to be for Carol, I’d have to imagine at least one of them be given some love for the Academy Awards.
Not that strong independent women need to be shown anything at all, technically. Fuck, feminism is hard. What do I say? Just start the review? Okay okay.
See? I am so feminist, I won’t even mention that thing that is on Carol’s head.
Film is called Carol? Fine, I will talk about Therese (Rooney Mara) first then. Therese is young and living in her own apartment in NYC in 1949-51, I couldn’t figure out the year. She works part time at a department store for the Christmas holidays, selling dolls and trains. She has a cheap camera for taking photos, thinking she might be a photographer one day. She is dating a fine young boy, Richard Semco (Jake Lacy), who wants to marry her and taker he on vacations to Europe.
But then she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett). Carol is older and richer and lives out in New Jersey. She has a husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler) but they are getting a divorced, and a young daughter (played by Sadie Heim and Kk Heim. Yes twins, and no, Kk is not her official real name). Why divorce? Well, the love is gone. And Carol might have had “a thing” with the godmother, Abby (Sarah Paulson), Carol’s childhood friend. Yes, a thing means a romantic relationship, when she was already married, to a woman.
Well, due to reasons, Carol and Therese become friends, Therese never really knowing she could find a woman desirable. But this was set 65 years ago and that would not fly. In fact, it is very bad news for Carol’s divorce, as her husband is using her past moral indiscretions as reasons to file for full custody of their daughter, not joint. This wedge is meant to bring her back into the fold, but Carol would rather flee the North east to be away from him, to be herself, until the trial where hopefully it would all just be heresay. But she wants Therese to go with her. Travel west, see the country side. Enjoy each others company. You know. Regular road trip stuff.
I would be appalled as well dancing with Chandler.
You just know he is constantly whispering “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” in her ear.
Carol was intricate, intimate, and insanely detailed [Editor’s Note: Yes, that was already covered by intricate.] Carol seems like the type of film that must be based on real events, with the actresses involved recreating the scenes word for word, smile for smile, as it happened in real life. From the first frame, you will begin to feel that old timey movie atmosphere wash over you. It feels like a film that literally came out of the 1950’s, but with the cameras used and credit style. Of course my own viewings of 1950’s cinema is excruciatingly low, so I am not a complete authority on that. But damn it, it still made me feel that way.
Since my rating is already obvious, my only real complaint about this film is that it took me quite a long time to get really involved with it. The beginning is slow, mostly the scenes of Therese without Carol where she is hanging out with her boyfriend and his friends. Yes it is important to establish her life outside of the future romance and not make her a love sick puppy, but they dragged on. Potentially on purpose, to show the boredom that had crept into her life.
But the scenes between Carol and Therese? Everything was golden. Their eyes, their body language, their tones. Fuck, I could stare at Rooney Mara starring at Cate Blanchett all day. It was that real. These two women were complete power houses in their own right. I can see them both being nominated for Best Actress for the Oscars as well, not just Blanchett for playing the titular role.
Carol will probably be in the running for Best Director as well. I think this is a heavy category this year, with Spotlight and The Revenant, but Todd Haynes completely dominated this film. Everything was on spot and meticulously planned. He is the type of guy who has great attention to detail, but isn’t insane about it like Wes Anderson.
Finally, if I wanted to be vague, I could describe this film as “Cate Blanchett has a mid life crisis, leaves her husband, and travels west” and you might think I was talking about Blue Jasmine. What’s that? Blanchett won Best Actress for that film? You don’t say.