Another movie taking place in early ’50s New York. It’s also a romance that re-creates the era beautifully. Yet where Brooklyn had the break-out performance of Saoirse Ronan, this had Rooney Mara. I’ve loved her in everything she’s done until this. As a shop girl that has the Audrey Hepburn look, she falls for the older and more refined Cate Blanchett. This is all an adaption of the Patricia Highsmith novel “The Price of Salt” (adapted by Phyliss Nagy).
Carol Aird (Blanchett) is in the process of a divorce. Yet you’re left to wonder why she ever married Harge (Kyle Chandler, in a one-note, bad guy performance). Is Carol a gold digger? Nah, we’re supposed to root for her. Couldn’t be that. But let’s talk about her slow seduction of Therese (Mara). She’s much younger, and obviously in awe of this much older, coiffed beauty. Would we be rooting for a romance involving a married man in his early ’40s and a cute teenage cashier? This movie is nothing but Oscar-bait and I guarantee you, the Academy is going to fall for it’s BS.
It contains one of my pet peeves in romances — conversations that aren’t romantic. When these two meet, there’s a conversation about a doll Carol wants for her daughter. That’s sold-out, and a trainset is recommended. Okay.
Now, once the two start hanging out (Carol leaves her gloves and Therese returns them)…again, nothing romantic happens. There are subtle moments — like a hand that is left lingering on the shoulder just a few seconds longer than a mere friend would. And the film is shot gorgeously, but so what. There’s a lack of dialogue and overabundance of melodramatic film score.
Therese wants to be a photographer, and Carol gets her an expensive camera and encourages the pursuit. For some reason, they set out on a road trip. About an hour of the film takes place before they actually start up their affair physically. There’s absolutely no chemistry between them. And when a movie lacks dialogue…that gives the viewer nothing. They aren’t flirtatious with each other, there aren’t any comedic moments. Nothing. Some would argue that’s the point. That during that time period, a lesbian couple couldn’t just walk around holding hands are being sweet with each other. Well, they certainly could behind closed doors. In the movie A Single Man, it was the early ’60s and these same restraints on the gay couple presented themselves. Yet that movie managed to be romantic (and also beautifully shot).
There’s another character that could’ve been interesting. Abby (Sarah Paulson) is a former lover of Carol’s. She seems to be the one person that understands her plight. There’s one interesting scene with her, as well as a few interesting scenes with a traveling salesman in a hotel.
Late in the movie, when Carol angrily shouts at her husband during talks about custody of their daughter…you wonder why the movie didn’t have more of those moments.
Give credit to cinematographer Edward Lachman and costume design by Sandy Powell. Take all that credit away because of Haynes’ (who also did the gay period piece film Far From Heaven) slow-pacing of a formulaic film.
People might say this is more of a chick-flick. It’s not. My date was bored to tears, too. Now, take it to 1958 for Chuck Berry’s Carol, and I’m on board. Heck, if Haynes would’ve just given Mara some dialogue instead of her staring blankly at everything around her…I may have been on board. These are two of the best actresses working today. Give them something to say.
Carol…I really missed Bob & Ted & Alice.
This gets 0 stars.