Lez Be Friends

There are very few directors that I follow for purely stylistic reasons. Wes Anderson is kind of the exception that proves the rule: Plot and characterization are generally more important than style choices. There are a couple of other names that come to mind when it comes to magnetic style, though, and at the top of that list is Todd Haynes. Far From Heaven was a gentle and gorgeous film, so when I heard there was another gentle and gorgeous film from Haynes that stars one of my favorite actresses, I was immediately on board.

Carol hasn't technically been released yet, but I was able to see it a bit early as part of SLIFF (St. Louis International Film Festival). Hooray for movie-addicted friends with free passes! Based on the novel The Price of Salt, Carol is the simple story of a glamorous, unhappily-married woman (Cate Blanchett) and Therese, an aimless shopgirl (Rooney Mara) who forge a timid friendship and wind up falling in love. It's the early '50s, though, so the early part of their relationship is 90% nuance, and their deeper feelings must be kept secret for as long as possible.

Obviously, there are obstacles. There's no way that 1950's society would accept an open romance between these two, but there are more personal problems as well. Carol doesn't love her husband, but unless she plays the good wife, she can't be with the daughter she adores. Therese half-heartedly keeps a boyfriend and a soul-sucking job, though she dreams of developing her artistic bent. These issues, along with their confusion of how to be together without getting exposed, makes for some heartbreaking scenes.

For viewers who insist on a fast-paced plot and exciting setpieces, this movie may not be for you. But for those who enjoy a deep and thoughtful tone piece, this film is right up your alley. There may not be a more magnetic actress working today than Cate Blanchett, and her name is already (deservedly) being bandied about for an Oscar nomination. Her performance is exquisite, but I hope some of the credit for that flows in Haynes' direction, because as is usually the case with his movies, Carol is an immense feast for the eye.

Carol: B+


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