‘Carol’ Review

CAROL (4 out of 10) Directed by Todd Haynes; Written by Phyllis Nagy (screenplay), Patricia Highsmith (novel); Starring Cate BlanchettRooney MaraKyle ChandlerSarah PaulsonJake LacyJohn MagaroCory Michael Smith; Rated R  for “a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language”; Running time 118 minutes; In semi-wide release December 25, 2015.

A beautiful, but ultimately boring, tale of forbidden love set against the backdrop of the social oppression of the 1950’s, “Carol” is the story of Carol Aird (Blanchett) trapped in an unfulfilling marriage with overbearing husband Harge (Kyle Chandler). Despite her love for her daughter, she’s unhappy because, well. . . she likes women. Therese (Rooney Mara) is a young woman, somewhat aimless, who runs into Carol and finds an almost immediate attraction. 

The two begin a relationship that borders between amazing friends and unrequited love. And as the film progresses, so does their relationship, despite the oppressive heteronormativity of their times, that even the hint of homosexuality being enough to warrant criminal charges, institutionalization, and general shunning.

The film is beautifully acted, with Mara, Blanchett and Chandler all delivering great performances, but major portions of the film are more plodding and boring than watching paint dry. As much as you feel for their dilemma and love that dare not speak its name, you’re more likely to snooze through some of the less interesting parts. Early in the film is an especially snore-inducing sequence where they go pick out and then decorate a Christmas tree (yes, it’s seasonally appropriate, and I swear to Krampus that anyone I hear make a “Christmas Carol” pun is getting some ex-lax in their hot cocoa).

This is the true tragedy of “Carol”: not the fate of our characters, but that their movie is not as gripping as it ought to be. This film should be exciting, including an especially sensuous and charged scene between Blanchett and Mara that is beautiful but not tawdry, but most of it is just emotional handwringing and padding.

But if you say to yourself, “Star Wars is far too exciting for me– I need something to bring me down,” then this is your film. Any awards this wins are out of either pity or the excellence of the marketing departments behind this film. It is sincerely baffling how this managed to grab five Golden Globe nominations, especially in as stellar a year for films, scripts, and female performances as this. It would not be hard to name a dozen better in each of the categories– half of which are from films released in the last two months.

You’ve been warned.

4 out of 10