Some people change your life forever

When I first heard of Carol, when the film was first announced, my immediate thought was Oscar Bait. How could I not? A 1950’s period film, produced by the Weinsteins starring Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett about a surreptitious lesbian love affair? After watching the film my sneaking suspicion was unfortunately left affirmed.

An adaptation of the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, Carol is about two women in 1950s New York who find themselves in an unexpected friendship despite being from very different walks of life.  Therese Belivet, played by Rooney Mara, is a clerk at a department store. Carol, played by Blanchett, is a wealthy married woman in a loveless marriage. As they are drawn to one another, feeling against conventions of that time start to emerge, along with it the moral complications of that day.

I have a grandmother who is now in her 90s and was about the age that these characters were in 1950s and she too lived in New York City. She goes to the movies every week and when I asked for her thoughts about Carol, she could barely muster a lukewarm response. It wasn’t the subject matter that led her to fail to sing its praises, it was the unfortunate direction. The first words out of her mouth were that it was slow and I have to agree wholeheartedly. Carol is definitely a paced film, hoping to cultivate the era and focus on the ambiance of the time. Sadly these lull periods don’t do that and instead leave the mind to wander as you patiently wait for the plot to take shape and for these characters’ relationship to commence.

The quiet transitional moments which make up the brunt of the two-hour run time for Carol are supposed to make the drama of the film meritorious. But director Todd Haynes is too nuanced and completely misses the mark. As a film, it is a tease, leaving the audience waiting for the moment Therese and Carol’s friendship takes the plunge into something more.  Haynes fails to elevate the sensual chemistry of his actors’ performances and create a spark between the characters from anticipation; instead, he tiptoes around the moment timidly leaving the rest of the film to feel superfluous.  While the film is beautiful, thanks to the hair, makeup, set and costume; it fails to succeed in the way Blue is the Warmest Color did.

Carol is a beautiful film, gilded and grand, reminding you of the golden days of Hollywood, but it isn’t good or memorable as a film. You can tell it wanted to enchant with its depth and significance but ultimately feels contrived.