Review: Carol

CarolWith Cate Blanchett playing the lead character that gives the film its name, Carol needs no introduction. The film realisation of The Price of Salt (or Carol), it charts the tale of two women who fall in love in 1950s New York.

One of the women, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), is in the process of divorcing her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), who loves her deeply but is wounded his love is not returned.

The other, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), is young and politely deflecting the advances of would-be suitors as she tries to find her way out of a dead-end job working in a department store doll department and into her dream photography job.

The opening credits are set against the pattern of a street grate—it looks not dissimilar to a gilded cage. It then cuts to an interrupted date between the two women to which we eventually return as the film comes almost full circle and then slightly beyond.

I liked this film but I didn’t love it, but for reasons that are difficult to explain. Blanchett is, as ever, exquisitely effective in her role. Mara is brilliant too, although I found myself fairly frustrated with her character—she’s rather two-dimensional and I needed more from her to truly invest in the tale. What a strange girl you are, flung from outer space, Carol tells Therese at one stage, and I found myself agreeing, albeit perhaps for not quite the same complimentary manner.

Not helping that was the fact that I have an enormous soft spot for Chandler. Known for being the actor everyone adores but whose name no one quite remembers. (My friend and co-reviewer Lise tipped me off that she was sold on coming along because of the actor even before the film started. I said ‘who?’ and she said I’d know once he appeared on screen. The moment he did, I knew who and what she was talking about.)

Chandler was exceptional as Coach Eric Taylor in Friday Night Lights and, as I found out from Wikipedia, even in such roles I loved as the head bomb guy in Grey’s Anatomy. You know, the one who helps Meredith out when she puts her hand on live ammunition in a body and, well, I won’t tell you how it ends, but suffice to say I love Chandler all the more now realising he was that guy.

All of which is a rather long way of saying it was rather difficult to root for Carol’s and Therese’s love to triumph when Chandler was the guy who would ultimately lose out.

The film is fairly chaste, but shoulder touches take on significance, and there are an incredible lot of cars scenes and wistful looks out windows, which, once you notice, you can’t unnotice.

But, like Suffragette and The Danish Girl, Carol is an important film. Though imperfect, it is an important tale to be telling and forms part of a larger movement and conversation we need to have.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.