Lush ’50s romance ‘Carol’ follows two women in love
In “Carol” two women find the strength to be themselves.
They would be being themselves in the 1950s, an era director Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”) excels at capturing. Haynes works in the rich colors, smart fashions and melodrama that, indeed, flourished in that decade. Here’s he’s filming Phyllis Nagy’s screenplay adapted from a novel, “The Price of Salt,” Patricia Highsmith didn’t admit writing until late in life — despite it being a big hit.
Why did Highsmith shy away from her own work? Because it is a lesbian love story, not the sort of thing one admitted writing in the ’50s. And from the way Haynes frames the film, you can see why.
It’s a fairly straightforward tale. Therese (Rooney Mara) is a department store clerk in New York City who makes a sale to an obviously wealthy and beautiful woman, Carol (Cate Blanchett). Carol (purposely?) leaves behind a pair of gloves, which Therese then returns to her. Carol offers to buy Therese lunch as a way of saying thanks. And things are underway.
But not too fast. Carol is married to Harge (Kyle Chandler), who seems aware of her inclinations and her former dalliance with her now best friend, Abby (Sarah Paulson). And Carol has a child who Harge will inevitably hold as a bargaining chip if Carol ever gets too far out of line. Meanwhile, Therese has a badgering boyfriend (Jake Lacy) she’s not really all that crazy about — especially since meeting Carol. Complications.
Still, Carol and Therese break away for a road trip, and while traveling — away from daily reality — they finally give in to their desires. Which is lovely, but reality awaits back home.
Will love conquer all? Probably not. The bigger question is whether it will endure. The lush, beautifully acted and shot “Carol” answers this with a sweet smile.
Rated R for a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language
Running time: 118 minutes