Carol (The Weinstein Company, R)

Carol 75Carol is something close to flawless.

 

 

 

 

Carol 500

Cate Blanchett has long been one of my favorite modern actresses (probably my single favorite, even), and one of the first films I saw her in was in Anthony Minghella’s 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel of the same name. Though that role wasn’t as high-profile as the one that put her on most people’s radar—that of the title character in Shekhar Kapur’s 1998 film Elizabeth, which garnered Blanchett her first Oscar nomination (and she should have won, but instead lost to Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love)—she still turned in a memorable performance. And now we have what in some ways feels like a combination of her role in Mr. Ripley and her role in Elizabeth: she’s the lead in the new Todd Haynes film Carol, which combines the stylized 1950s milieu of Ripley with the heavy-lifting-required central performance of Elizabeth. Of course, there’s also the connection that the source material for Carol is Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt, though that book is more of a pulpy lesbian melodrama than the more straight mystery type that describes Mr. Ripley.

If you want to keep playing the “Connect the Cate Blanchett Movies” game, you likely have noticed that Carol reteams her with Haynes, who previously directed her in one of her greatest performances (which is saying something, when talking about an actress as reliable as Blanchett), as 1960s-era Bob Dylan in 2007’s I’m Not There., which resulted in Oscar nomination #5 and major Oscar snub #2 (she lost that year to Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton, which wasn’t quite as glaring as losing to Paltrow was). Haynes has proven many times over that he’s one of our best directors of actors (I’m Not There aside, see his work on 2002’s Far from Heaven or 1995’s Safe for proof), and I don’t need to tell you what happens when you reteam one of our greatest actresses with one of our greatest directors of actors.

Further, it isn’t just Blanchett who Carol makes shine: it’s a showcase for all of its actors, not least of which the also-always-excellent Rooney Mara as Therese, a young shopgirl who Cate’s Carol takes a liking to, and whose performance is roughly equal in stature to Blanchett’s. What at first could pass for a sweet friendship between two lonely souls blossoms into a forbidden romance, and Therese’s falling into it calls to mind a great line from the Denis Johnson novel Jesus’ Son, gender-switched to suit the material at hand: “I knew [women] got that way about [women], but I didn’t know I did.”

If you can stomach some more of my gushing, when it comes down to it Carol is something close to flawless. Performances and direction aside, all of the people involved with the film are firing on all cylinders. Carter Burwell’s score has a pleasant Philip Glassishness to it; between this and Anomalisa I vote him best film composer of the year (and he’s been terribly underrated for some time besides). Ed Lachman’s frame composition is gorgeous, though the colors seemed a bit dim at the screening I attended—maybe the bulb in the projector just needed to be changed? Judy Becker’s production design is rich and rings of leafing through an old catalog you found at your grandma’s house.

After all that, do I really need to tell you that Carol is one of the best films of the year? Well, it is, and I suggest you not hesitate in seeing it. | Pete Timmermann

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