Martini’s and Cigarettes

Carol

carol

Director: Todd Haynes

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Cory Michael Smith

Far From Heaven director Todd Haynes adapts the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt for the big screen in the visually beautiful and meticulously directed film Carol featuring Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine) and Oscar Nominee Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as unlikely lovers in New York during Christmas in 1952.

Similar to Far from Heaven which also featured a love story which was socially prohibited back in the 1950’s, Carol focuses on a love affair between an affluent married woman Carol Aird and a young shop assistant Therese Belivet wonderfully played by Mara. Blanchett brings a nuanced perspective to the role of Carol, a strong willed and affluent woman whose sexual desires for the same sex are severely limited by the narrow social attitudes of the early 1950’s America, particularly mirrored in the attitude of her affronted soon to be ex-husband Harge Aird superbly played by Kyle Chandler, who typically views his wife and daughter as his patriarchal properties which need to be possessed.

Carol has to be viewed through the long struggle for international LGBT rights which is now enjoyed by many but wasn’t the case some sixty years ago. Carol like Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain depicts a socially taboo homosexual love affair which affects not only the lovers involved but also their respective partners or suitors. In this case, it is Therese’s suitor Richard Simco played by Jake Lacy who is mystified as to why Therese is constantly rebuffing his advances.

Carol’s situation is more complex as she is married with a husband and a little daughter, which really speaks to the emotional pull of the entire film. As Carol and Therese embark on a cross-country jaunt from New York to Chicago, their travels reflect their own emotional and sexual journeys as they soon realize how deeply they have fallen for each other despite the consequences.

After their initial encounter in a swanky New York department store whereby shop assistant Therese persuades the chain-smoking and glamourous Carol Aird to rather buy a train set than a doll for her daughter as a Christmas present, Haynes makes a valid point about the perceived gender typical socialization of children and how sexuality itself is in fact a social construct.

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Their scandalous affair is assisted by Carol’s ex-lover Abby Gerhard played by Sarah Paulson and as those they affect soon realize what has occurred, it’s the peripheral characters conservative viewpoints on morality which frames this tender and beautifully constructed love affair characterized by Martini’s and cigarettes.

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Carol has generated a lot of critical acclaim because Blanchett and Mara both have the acting abilities to pull off such nuanced and complex performances especially in the hands of a brilliant director like Todd Haynes who after his stunning mini-series Mildred Pierce and his earlier films Far From Heaven and I’m Not There is an artist at the peak of his creative powers, both in terms of semiotics and visual arts.

Carol is highly recommended viewing, extraordinarily acted, beautifully designed and most notably directed with a flair for detail which is rarely glimpsed in the 21st century’s era of effects laden contemporary cinema.

Viewers that enjoy a mature adult drama, should definitely watch Carol, a film which does not resort to explicit nudity or shock value but critically evaluates an extraordinary love affair taking place in an exceptionally conservative era of American history.

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