By: Joseph Kathmann and Peter Kosanovich
A Wonderful Nod to Classical Filmmaking
Carol (2015): An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman.
Hey guys! We are mixing it up today at Enter the Movies. Today, I am joined by a very special guest and periodic guest writer on the site, Peter Kosanovich, to talk to you about one of the "important" films of 2015, Carol. So, is it as good as it's been made out to be? Read on and find out!
Peter: Starring Rooney Mara as main character Therese Belivet, the movie tells the story of Therese in 1950’s New York City during the holiday season, as she comes into contact and eventually develops a relationship with the eponymous Carol, portrayed by Cate Blanchett. Therese, a 20-something aspiring photographer/seasonal shop worker, first sees Carol one morning shopping for Christmas presents for her daughter, before the title-character approaches her for gift advice. Through calculated moves, Carol is able to invite Therese to her house as company, a guest for an afternoon, to interact with her and her daughter. It is then revealed to Therese that Carol is in the midst of a divorce from her husband Harge, and their relationship is strained. Without giving away too much of the specifics, as you should really see this film, Therese and Carol embark on a bit of an adventure together, during which their relationship is able to blossom and develop into a form of lust and love.
Joseph: I love this film. I need to get that off my chest right off the bat. One of the things that was really enjoyable to me was the innocence of Rooney Mara's character. Innocence is, to me, a central theme of this film through the first act and part of the second act. Therese is able to see that Carol is in the middle of an ugly divorce, but she, to me, looks at it from a very innocent perspective. A "what could possibly go wrong?" sort of way. And Rooney Mara really conveys this in spectacular fashion-both she and Blanchett put in two of the best performances of the year in this film-and sucked me in immediately.
Peter: Looking at many movies today you see bigger and bigger, more expensive, more CGI and special effects – more, more, more! Carol is a precious little film, for it does the exact opposite. It is a simple film, beautiful and tragic, yet nothing over-the-top or ridiculous. What makes this movie so wonderful is in the intimacies and nuances it gives to the individual performances and the camera work. None of the shots are overly complex, but are instead very simple, and illustrate exactly what needs to be seen, while at the same time deliberately focusing on key elements in a shot or scene for the audience to pay special attention to – a glove here, a hand there, the color pink. There is no unnecessary motion to the camera, only what needs to be done to appropriately fit or enhance the moment.
Joseph: I couldn't agree more. The camera work orchestrated by cinematographer Edward Lachman and director Todd Haynes is phenomenal throughout the 118 minute film. Buuuuut there are a few exceptions. A few times throughout the film, the cinematography was almost....too good. There were a few shots that were shot that made me say, "Did you really have to do that?" and it would take me out of the film briefly. While these moments were few and far between, they were just enough to say this film is not perfect, because with the exception of this complaint it is.
Peter: At the same time the performances given by these women, as well as Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson in supporting roles, are completely genuine and to a T. Mara is able to be impressionable and naïve while still showing herself as a capable and functioning adult. She portrays Therese as a very “proper,” 1950s, traditional girl who is always doing as she is told, but then evolves into a heartbroken and yet remarkably self-sufficient woman. This, while at the same time Blanchett makes Carol appear seductive one minute and incredibly motherly the next, she is able to balance complete control and immense vulnerability. Carol showcases incredibly grounded characters that tell a beautiful and sad love story.
Joseph: They really are grounded roles. I think this is the most down-to-earth performance we've gotten out of Cate Blanchett in years. Not only that, but her wonderful chemistry with Rooney Mara is there right off the bat. And thanks to the incredible attention to detail from the set crew and costume/makeup department, this will fall into a category of being a truly "timeless" film. The tragic love story is a phenomenal one to watch unfold before you, and it is worth every second of your time. Expect to hear this film's name called a lot this award season.
Peter's Critique: I’ve already used these words, but I don’t more accurate words could describe this film than beautiful and tragic, yet refreshingly simple. A wonderful film.
Joseph's Critique: A great tribute to classic filmmaking, Carol is a tragic love story done right. Featuring some of the year's best performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and great attention to detail in the 1950's setting, it is certainly one that should not be missed.
Peter's Recommendation: Though it is a slow-paced movie it never felt like it dragged, you feel completely engrossed in the 1950s setting. But because it is slow, I would not necessarily recommend it to everyone. I would recommend that people should watch it though, as it really is an excellent movie.
Joseph's Recommendation: There could not be a better date movie out there from 2015 between this film and Brooklyn. Guys, put your desire for action aside and watch this with that special someone. Do it.
Oscar Talk: We would be shocked if either Rooney Mara or Cate Blanchett didn’t receive nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Mara already won (tied) Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival this past year. That being said, The Academy doesn’t always like to reward films that premiered at Cannes, so we wouldn’t be surprised if it did not get a best picture nomination, though it really should. (Joseph: I do believe this will receive a Best Picture nomination because ever since the field expanded to 10 there's always been one "indie" film that makes the list. I think this year that film will be Carol.) Also expect a Best Original Score nod to Carter Burwell. The film is also based the book The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, so we would expect a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay as well.
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