Nominated for six Oscars, but not for Best Picture or Best Director, which has some people pissed. As usual, I’m far behind on my Oscar films watch, but I can say I think Mad Max: Fury Road is a better movie, and better directed, than Carol, which isn’t to say Carol is undeserving of nominations.
I’ve seen several of Todd Haynes’ movies, with Far from Heaven at the top of my personal list. Haynes is at his best when he delves deeply into Douglas Sirk mode. Lots of people I know love Velvet Goldmine, but I’m in the minority on that one. Carol is closer to Far from Heaven, both in terms of quality and in its similarities to that movie.
As usual, Haynes does a wonderful job of placing the viewer in a different era, without overdoing the ironic knowledge of our present time. Carol feels like a daring movie from 1952 at least as much as it feels like a period piece from 2015, even given that the movie would never have been made in the 50s. Even the “bad guys” are treated as people of their time, rather than as characters we would hate in a 2015 setting.
For the most part, Carol avoids Well of Loneliness misery. The misfortunes of the main characters are socially imposed, and they are real, but you never get the feeling Carol or Therese think what they feel and do is bad. They are trapped in a time and place that makes their feelings and actions difficult, but they persevere. Therese is the key, and if I had to choose (I’m glad I don’t), I’d say it’s Rooney Mara who makes this film work. At one point, Therese says, “How could I know what I want if I say yes to everything?” It’s that yes which gives her power. She is young and unsure, but she always says “yes”, and that takes her places she would otherwise miss. Carol already knows who she is ... Therese is finding herself. And that search, and the many “yeses”, is why the Well of Loneliness never establishes a foothold.
Through it all, Haynes always errs on the side of subtlety. Carol is a quiet movie, almost internal, the way a woman like Carol would have to be in the 1950s. Blanchett has the look down, and she has the subtlety down ... it’s great casting. And Haynes doesn’t just recreate the 1950s ... he recreates the feel of a Sirk film, which is not quite the same but which is an interesting trick that works here as well as it did in Far from Heaven. This is a good return from the lows of Mildred Pierce. 8/10.