*** stars out of ****
Director Todd Haynes is as good as any filmmaker at recreating past eras (Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine). His new romance Carol continues the trend, depicting 1950s New York City in rich detail. You almost want to take a walk in it.
Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) plays a bored young department store clerk who falls in love with an unhappily married woman (Cate Blanchett). Blanchett’s husband (Kyle Chandler) knows about his wife’s homosexual affairs, but he thinks he can still win her back. He also isn’t afraid to use their daughter to do it.
Overall, Haynes keeps a pretty restrained tone throughout. At times, Carol could use a little more fire (it’s better at portraying the hesitation and fear the characters feel at their new romance as opposed to the excitement), but the tone generally serves the movie well. While many romantic dramas descend into soap opera territory for their climaxes, Carol ends on a graceful and somewhat surprising note.
The script also plays fair with its characters. A lesser movie would’ve portrayed Chandler as a one-dimensional brute; here he’s portrayed as something of a jerk, but also someone who’s genuinely wounded by the discovery his wife doesn’t love him.
Tentatively, Carol is scheduled to open in New Orleans around Thanksgiving. Check it out.