Cate Blanchett has been a favorite of mine for many years, especially after “Elizabeth” in 1998. Rooney Mara has made a comfortable living without a true breakout performance, even after “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. More than anything else, Blanchett lured me into watching “Carol” and, once again, I’m glad she did.
Based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith, and set in the early 1950’s, working girl Therese Belivet, played skillfully by Mara, meets socialite Carol Aird, an older and much more sophisticated woman. Therese is in a dead end relationship with a man she doesn’t care for, and Carol is in the midst of a divorce. Slowly, but with certainty, an emotional relationship forms between the two and just as inevitable, things get physical.
But this is a lot more than just a romance between two women at the most wrong time, it is a love story set in a time in history that just plain couldn’t be much worse for either. Carol’s husband, Harge Aird, artfully played by Kyle Chandler, is a ruthless misogynist who doesn’t seem to realize that’s who and what he is. He sees Carol’s attraction to other women as rebellion or mental illness and he’ll stop at nothing to keep Carol away from their daughter. In the meanwhile, Therese is fending off her would be suitor, Richard, also well done by Jake Lacy, and Richard thinks that by declaring his live for Therese, well, that’s all he has to do to get her to marry him, isn’t it?
More than anything else this is a very dark glimpse at the lives of two women in the very peak of the greatest generation’s heyday. Everything is going well, everyone is happy, and dammit, no one is going to ruin it all for everyone else simply because they want to be who they really are.
The scenery is stunning, the casting perfect, the score on top of that time, and suddenly, the early 50’s come to life again, yet this world is not perfect for everyone, or every love.