Monday, 30 November 2015

Review: Carol

World of Blackout Film Review

Carol Poster

Cert: 15 / 119 mins / Dir. Todd Haynes / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

Despite the atrocious social politics, the 1950s seem alright, don't they? The two lead characters in this movie sit down in a restaurant, order and have their food (plus cocktails!) in front of them within four minutes! I can't even get the waiting-staff's attention in that time. That said, I look like neither Cate Blanchett nor Rooney Mara, so…

Adapted from Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel, The Price Of Salt, Carol stars the aforementioned actresses struggling to reconcile the relationship they both want; not only because of general societal norms, but also because of the expectations of their friends and families. And if that all sounds a bit too over-earnest, don't worry, it's not really. As Drama™ goes, Carol is directed a little too languidly for its own good, and Haynes' pace is too relaxed to seize the angst and emotional drama that's at the core of the story.

The film is saved by its performances, rather than being driven forward by its narrative, and both Blanchett and Mara inhabit the roles completely. I bought into Carol and Therese's characters individually, but not so much their relationship, although I suspect that's because the film itself is hesitant about exploring that too deeply. It's also important to remember, of course, that the story was written around the time it's set, which explains much of its slightly reserved tone. While most serious dramas at this time of year smells a lot like awards-bait, I think Carol shows too much restraint for its own good, and will probably slip through the Oscar-net*1.

A fine looking movie in terms of sets and wardrobe, cinematographer Edward Lachman makes great use of both reflection and unconventional framing. But his colour-balancing, film-grain and camera-wobble are all over the place, the latter of which suggests a lot of zoom/crop shots. A story about a relationship that didn't bloom, rather than one that shone and burned-out, the film isn't always as visually quiet as the tone of the script requires it to be. Although the final dialogue-free scene saw many of my perceived gripes pushed aside*2.

Despite the combination of the story's era and subject-matter, there's little which is daring or challenging about the film, yet it's still an engaging watch throughout. Carol feels more like a repressed melodrama than an intense romance, and I'm not sure that does it any favours in the long-term…

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
It is, but…

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
…you wouldn't lose too much by spending that £10+ on the DVD and watching it at home.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Not quite, although both Blanchett and Mara are outstanding in their work and they can't all be the best performance.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
For me, no.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Cate Blancett starred in those Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit movies, alongside Sir Christopher 'Dooku' Lee.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

1 Plus, with the best will in the world, I just don't think it's that good. And while I'm on, how the hell does Kyle Chandler get an 'And' credit?? He's hardly the special guest of the week, ringing on the doorbell as he pops round to borrow a cup of sugar, single-handedly raising the profile of the film with his presence alone, now is he?

*2 Not my gripes about the photography, though. That much hand-held camera-shake for the final, measured, interior tracking shot is nothing short of excruciating.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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