The Oscar season releases continue to make their way onto home format for those of us too unfortunate / unlucky to catch them on the big screen. And “Carol” was certainly getting a lot of buzz before the awards, so how does it fare for one like me witnessing it for the first time?
Honestly…. very well. Kate Blanchett and Rooney Mara play two women who fall for each other during the 1950’s in America – a time when homosexual relationships were still very much looked down upon. Mara plays a young department store clerk who falls for the older and very up-town Blanchett as they talk over the purchase of a Christmas present. The film follows their relationship as they slowly gravitate towards each other, but not without difficulties and barriers besetting their path.
The pace of this film is one that is very relaxed, and lets you just sit back in your comfy chair and enjoy the tale. Instead of having the LGBT aspect front-and-centre with all the trumpets and emotional coat=pegs, it is simply… there. A part of the romance, but not one that everything pivots about in order to function. More important is how this romance impacts the current situation Blanchett’s character is in, and it is this which drives the plot of the story more than anything else. I liked that a lot since it felt more relatable, more realistic a set up to travel with.
There have been plenty movies set in the pre/post World War II era, and they almost always shine from the costumes and set designs at the very least. And the costumes here are simply beautiful, holding that kind of timeless style the decade managed to generate. Even if clothing isn’t your topic of interest, you will find yourself noticing them in this film. The colours that are chosen are wonderful. Set all that aside the effortless style of Kate Blanchett, and young glamour of Rooney Mara, and they just seem to elevate the scenes to a more interesting level.
And sticking with the actresses, they are fantastic. Working off of each other and complimenting one another so well from the first meeting to the last shot. They would have to of course, since this is a drama focussing entirely on the conversations and personalities. But the drama and romance (and I’m using this term a second time) feels more relatable. No gimmicky soap-opera going on here. Their cross-country journey is probably the most personal portion of the story for them, and they deliver their lines and emotions so well.
It is kind of odd that even though the other performances were very good, they still orbit around the two major lead roles, and so can easily fade into the ether by no fault of their own. It is just one of those examples where the primary story HAS to buy you in, otherwise everything else just falls apart from the lack of gravity. Whether that design is a good, or bad one is up to the viewer to be honest.
The conflict to the romance is one that when it works, really works. Again, simply due to it feeling genuine and sincere. It reminds me a little of the wonderful “Love is Strange” released last year where the sentiment of the romance and troubles was magnificently written in. And although there are times when it gets kind of… forgotten by the movie, you don’t essentially forget it. But more importantly, neither do the lead characters.
“Carol”is another unfortunate example of a movie nominated for many Oscars, but left the ceremony empty-handed. And even though the competition was tough, it seems unfair on what I found to be a great production. Todd Haynes brought a gay theme to the fore-front of his movie, instead of making it a side-plot to grab attention. That is still seen as a risk by Hollywood, but he made it work by the simple fact of just making a really good romance story. The lead performances are incredibly strong, I loved the visuals and design of the time, and although the cinematography is simple, some sequences have some very clever camera work that you will notice. There may be no chicken dinner for this winner, but should definitely be a hit on home release.
And if you’re wondering “Will it be okay for my parents to watch?”. Well, the sex scenes are subdued, and so long as they’re not massive bigots, they’ll enjoy it a lot.
Thanks for reading!