Directed by Todd Haynes
In 1950s New York City, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), socialite and soon-to-be divorced mother of one, thought she had successfully hidden her “subversive” homosexual tendencies from the world. But when her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) sends Carol an injunction demanding full custody of their daughter Rindy (played by both Sadie and KK Heim), he cites her alleged immorality. Despite the extra pressure to win over lawyers and earn partial custody of her daughter, Carol begins to fall for a department store cashier and amateur photographer, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), who’s coming to terms with her own sexuality. In a close-minded world, the two women try to contain their feelings for each other as they explore their newfound desires.
As if it comes as a shock, 2-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett is simply sublime in the titular role. She races ahead of the year’s contenders in the Best Actress race with a role that oozes grace and elegance. She’s ravishing, but the role also takes a lot of guts. Blanchett owns it. Oscar nominee Rooney Mara will have a tougher race for Best Supporting actress, but her spellbinding performance as the young, naïve Therese positions her well. She looks like a young Audrey Hepburn, with many of the same qualities. And the chemistry between the two women show how committed they are to their roles. It’s unlike any film we’ve seen this year.
“Carol” hums with Norman Rockwell-esque 1950s fervor. Set and costume design transport us to another time and place. The attention to period detail could garner its own Academy attention. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel, which is based in part on the author’s own experiences, “Carol” also boasts one of the year’s best scripts. Phyllis Nagy, nominated for two Emmys for her 2005 miniseries “Mrs. Smith” (her only other writing credit) crafts a beautiful romance that never gets bogged down in clichés or the predictable. Carol and Therese don’t rush into love. There’s hardly a touch shared for over an hour. But even when the plot lags, Blanchett and Mara never miss a beat. They’re on their game for every frame. It goes to show that a great actress can take a good story and make it unforgettable.