2015 will be known as the year Cate Blanchett was up against herself with two equally-brilliant performances. Perhaps we can call it the Todd Haynes Effect, as Julianne Moore in 2002 experienced a similar dilemma with two award-worthy performances, one being in his memorable Far From Heaven, the other her work in The Hours. After wowing us as Mary Mapes last month in Truth, awards season is about to kick into high gear and Carol looks to be the performance of the two from double Academy Award winner Blanchett, which places her in contention for a potential triple.
The 50s-set Drama from Haynes, heavier on the nuance and sparser on the dialogue, centers on two women from different worlds whom fall in love after a chance encounter at a department store where one works. True to Haynes, this offering touches upon once again, the idea of marital strife like in Mildred Pierce and Far From Heaven and again same-sex relations like in the latter.
Carol (Blanchett) is a well-to-do woman on the verge of separation from her career-driven husband Harge (Kyle Chandler). Together they have a daughter named Rindy. Theresse outside her store clerk job, is an aspiring photographer, unsure what direction her life is taking her. She feels trapped somehwat in a relationship with Richard (Jake Lacy), with pressure looming as their relationship is about to reach the next level. Carol and Theresse‘s burgeoning relationship undergoes a great deal of scrutiny and struggle as Harge is unable to reconcile his strained marriage with Carol, demanding full custody of their daughter citing her relations with Theresse as deeming her an unfit mother. Carol and Theresse embark on an escape together over the holidays amidst separation from Rindy, but we learn the love holding them together at once could potentially destroy Carol’s chance at custody of her daughter.
Carol is a story told with great eloquence and refines style. As a love story, it understands the ebb and flow of life and its inevitable changes rather than casting blame. Mara delivers yet again another superb performance in a brief career which has shown great selectivity in roles. Despite being one of few words, we witness great depth from Mara and a detailed look into Theresse’s lens and her own struggle to understand who she is and her feelings for Carol. It is impossible not to watch and feel the essence of Natalie Portman at her best when seeing Mara. Blanchett is remarkable, embodying gracefully Carol‘s multiple hats as a woman out of love, in love and a woman willing to do anything for her daughter. Sarah Paulson as Carol’s confidante Abby is grounding and we wish there were more of her. The men of the story admittedlly are at times one-dimensional, romantically-frustrated and chronic complainers when out of no fault of their own, they are involved with women who are emotionally inaccessible to them.
Carol certainly is no fairy tale romance, although really we like that a lot.
eOne Films release CAROL Friday, December 12, 2015.