Carol (2105), dir. Todd Haynes.
In 1952, a married society woman (Cate Blanchett) and a shop girl (Rooney Mara) fall in love. The men in their lives, and the rest of society, don’t agree.
The film is an adaptation of “The Price of Salt” (1952), by the master of suspense Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley). The whole movie is gorgeous, not just Blanchett and Mara. The period details, principle actors, extras, wardrobe, score, color palette, and set design are luscious and evocative of the 1950’s. Blanchett is the total diva with a slightly dark side, and Mara with her wide-eyed innocence occupies the film’s moral center.
From the very beginning, almost every movement on the screen is infused with romantic passion. There’s heat in the way Mara and Blanchett’s eyes linger on each other even before they meet. And there’s tension in the fact that various circumstances keep the two lovers apart for almost the entire movie.
The dialog is taut and indirect. It sounds sparse to modern ears, the way movie talk sounded in the 1940’s and 50’s. But this also heightens the sensuality and dramatic tension. And this was 1952, before we had words for “a love that dare not speak its name.”
I find this kind of mid-twentieth-century writing to be remarkable. Early on, when their first weekend together is ruined, Carol says,
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, you run out of cigarettes.
It’s more like Hemingway or Hammett than anything we’d hear in a contemporary love story, with arguments, explanations and psychological unburdenings.
I liked the movie so much that by the end, I was crying tears of joy.