Carol has already won four awards at the New York Film Critics Circle: best film, best director, best screenplay and best cinematography. As well has six independent Spirit nominations, three Gotham nominations and a best actress win for Rooney Mara from Cannes Film Festival. Leading rave reviews from film critics during the early USA screenings. Leaving me highly excited for the UK release last week, even with the low box office takings after three weeks in the US leaving it not yet scoring a million dollars in takings. Based on the book The Price of Salt by Phyllis Nagy.
The storyline revolves around Carol Aird, a married woman with a daughter in the 1950's. Well to do, but unhappy with her husband. They are separated, taking divorce proceedings, having agreed joined custody of her daughter. Her husband being rather aggressive, controlling, even abusive towards her. While shopping for a doll for her daughter just days before christmas in a new york toy shop, she meets a young shop assistant called Therese Belivet. The attraction is clear straight away between the two women, Therese seeming stunned by Carol's beauty. When Carol accidentally leaves her gloves (accidently of course!) in the store, Therese finds the purchase order for the train set she persuaded the customer into buying so she can return the garment. Carol calls up the store asking for Therese to take her to lunch as thank you for the kindness.
The friendship between the two strengthens during more meetings. We meet Therese's boyfriend Richard who wants to marry her, but she keeps putting him off. Therese takes pictures, getting introduced to one of his friends who works on the New York Times who is rather more interested in trying to seduce than assist. We explore into both women's lives, finding out Carol has 'non natural' relations with women in her life hence the divorce. While Therese starts to question if a person attracted to the same-sex is normal or not. When Mr Aird decides to take full custody of their child stating concerns over Carol's life style. Upset Carol decides to take Therese on a road trip with her over the holiday season.
Firstly the film has to be praised for showing how far we have come in the quest for equality over the last 60 years. To think that original gay people were considered mentally unstable, needing therapy to correct their foul desires. That it was once grounds for divorce and taking your children away for the child's mental well-being. Showing how gay people were shunned. That they had to hide everything about themselves in the public eye. Something that today's LGBTQ identifying people may not think of, I certainly know some teenagers who wouldn't.
Secondly Cate has to be congratulated for her acting in this room, as a sexual strong female character. Slowly wooing a young woman, living her life as she wants. The chemistry between her and Therese is very strong. Coming to a peak at their love-making scenes, and the tenderness she shows towards her new lover. She is a highly believable woman in love.
However that is as far as I can go with praise for this production. The movie is very slow, the adaptation shows a period piece perfectly yet lacks in bringing to an understandable level for the modern age. Leaving more than half the movie dedicated to the slow love affair growing between the two, so slow that several people walked out of the screening I was in. I myself almost fell asleep during it. Rooney Mara as Therese, I honestly can not see how she won an award for her acting. Instead of being the sweet innocent naive girl being seduced by an older woman. She comes across constantly as looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Her acting is poor, Cate seems to far more carry the storyline on her more experienced shoulders. She has a wry smile which looks more like she is the seducer, that she is playing games with Carol's heart.
It clearly was a huge thing in the 1950's for an older married woman, to run away with a young innocent girl for a long road trip. To have to hide who they were, and that they were in love. In today's society, the way it has been brought to the screen it leaves the viewer uninterested. Even the love making scenes are far more highly censored then anything you would expect from a straight production. Unlike Suffragette brought from a much earlier time frame I recently reviewed which managed to make its story still relevant to today's society. I see this as a film that you see once, just out of interest and never bother with again.
Sarah Beth James