I have been hearing great things about Carol for a while. It’s been bouncing around film festivals for all of 2015, so I was all for watching it when it finally got a cinema release. Let’s have a look at it.
Carol stars Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson and is directed by Todd Haynes. Based on the novel, The Price of Salt, the film follows Carol (Blanchett) and Therese (Mara) who after a chance encounter strike up and adulterous relationship.
I was all for loving Carol, it’s got so much admiration and appreciation from the festival crowd and hordes of critics, but when I finally got down to watching it, I was bored out of my mind. In every film I check my watch at least once, at the beginning to try and gauge at what time the film will end, and then maybe a second time if it drags on a tiny bit. I can’t remember how many times I looked at my watch during Carol, but it was nearly every five minutes.
The performances are alright. Cate Blanchett plays Carol as a sultry older woman, subtly seducing Rooney Mara’s young and innocent Therese with ease, but I can’t tell you anything about her personality at all, she’s a shell of a character. Rooney Mara plays Therese as a shy and awkward girl, but sometimes she falls into being bland and uninterested. For a few frames we see her bawling her eyes out over her being apart from Carol, but other times she’s crying for no logical reason, only that the script called for it. Both actresses look good in 50s glamour fashion and makeup, but apart from that the period setting has no real bearing on the story.
The only really good actor is Kyle Chandler as Carol’s husband, Harge. Chandler plays completely against type as a drunk, angry husband, suspicious of his wife’s constant companionship with Therese. Chandler has always played a “nice guy” character, so it’s good to see him break type.
Many critics have been comparing Carol to 2013’s Blue Is The Warmest Colour, mainly due to the similar narrative of a blossoming lesbian relationship. I have my problems with Blue Is The Warmest Colour, but at least that film was compelling and a great romance film, Carol just potters around trying to compete but can’t deliver. I thought the sex scene in Blue Is The Warmest Colour was crass, but I liked it for is ballsy approach to display it on film. Carol tries to do this as well, but it feels like the film is ashamed to have in it, with it cutting away and clunky editing, leading to a weak climax to the film. All in all Blue Is The Warmest Colour does a much better job at everything Carol was trying to do in terms of a romance film.
The one shining grace I can find in Carol is the score by Cater Burwell. It’s a fantastic string accompaniment, and actually makes the few scenes where it plays quite good. I’m listening to it as I write the review, and it is the best thing of the film. It manages to be forlorn and melancholic, symbolising the almost certainly doomed relationship but also charmingly hopeful that Carol and Therese might be able to live happily ever after once the credits have rolled.
In the end, I was disappointed with Carol. After hearing such rave reviews I was hoping for a stellar love story, but what I got was two characters with hardly any charisma and no audience through-line (none that I could find anyway). But I guess with every other critic putting Carol in their top films of the year, it’s going to find its way to the top of the box office and the Awards season.
Score: 3/10 How did something so lauded have such a negative response with me?