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Film review: CAROL, from ‘Built For Speed’

Along with The Danish Girl and The Duke Of Burgundy, the moody, sensitive, Carol continues an intriguing theme in 2015/16 cinema of introspective dramas examining gender and sexual identity.   In doing so it provides an impressive showcase for the talents of leads Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and enigmatic director Todd Haynes.

The film tells of a forbidden and fraught romance between two women, the wealthy and privileged Carol (Cate Blanchett) and department store worker Therese (Rooney Mara) in conservative 1950’s America. Forced to hide their romance from a disapproving male-dominated society, the two face condemnation, ostracism and in Carol’s case the loss of custody of her child if discovered. The men, including Carol’s paranoid ex-husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) don’t exhibit physical violence but represent an all-encompassing oppression much like Big Brother in 1984. At one point Carol and Therese are subjected to covert surveillance as their relationship is turned into an Orwellian sex crime.

Swathed in blue/grey tones lensed by cinematographer Edward Lachman, the film superbly evokes 1950’s urban America. Haynes adopts a slow burn approach to the story which may have some audience members checking their watches but will allow others to carefully imbibe the wonderful atmospheric visuals.

Blanchett, with her deliberately stagey and regal manner, wonderfully embodies an American upper class of wealthy elites while also reminding us of classic Hollywood starlets of yesteryear. She brings a variety of textures to her performance portraying Carol as a victim as well as an aloof, superior and at times selfish person. As the mousey but determined Therese, Rooney Mara, who at times recalls Audrey Hepburn, leaves an equally indelible impression. Together, Blanchett and Mara have potent and emotionally-charged screen chemistry. By contrast, the supporting characters, including Kyle Chandler’s Harge, aren’t noticeably underdeveloped. Fans of legendary indie rock band Sleater Kinney and off-beat comedy Portlandia will, however, be pleased to see Sleater guitarist and Portlandia co-creator Carrie Brownstein make a brief appearance here.

The film’s slender plot and Haynes’ restrained style may prove a problem for those wanting a more visceral type of film but for more patient cinema-goers who want to experience some masterful performances and wonderful art-direction, Carol will be an intoxicating experience.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2.

Genre: Drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Todd Haynes.

Release date: 14th January 2016.

Running time: 118 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

 

 

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