Saturday, April 13, 2024

Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara Make Todd Haynes’ “Carol” An Oscar Contender


So I finally got to see “Carol” this afternoon. Todd Haynes’s period romance starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, with excellent work by Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler, makes this love story a certain Oscar contender in all the main categories.

Of course, Ed Lachman, cinematographer extraordinaire, is at the top of the list. He’s out-Madded “Mad Men” from its first season, drawing in elements of his own “Far from Heaven.”

Unlike “Far from Heaven,” Haynes’s last big film, this isn’t an ode to Douglas Sirk or anyone else. It’s based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith called “The Price of Salt.” Like the book, “Carol” takes place in 1952, as Eisenhower ascends as president and New York is still a small town. The next thing these filmmakers should tackle is a Dawn Powell story, like “The Locusts Have No King.” They could do it.

Blanchett is Carol, the wealthy, older beautiful woman divorcing her husband and fighting for custody of her 4 year old daughter. Rooney is Therese, the shopgirl Carol falls for. Yes, kids, this is a movie about lesbians during a time when this could not be discussed. And so there are no lawsuits or appearances on talk shows. Carol’s path is cluttered by silences and nuance as she tries to live her life and keep her daughter. The movie is made with precision and beauty.

We know that Cate Blanchett can do anything, and she does it here once again. This is “Jasmine” from “Blue Jasmine” minus the crazy. Rooney Mara– we mostly know her from the thriller (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”). Therese is her breakout role; if she wants to be Audrey Hepburn now, she can. Guys will see this movie just to see her.

Blanchett heads to Lead actress at the Oscars, Mara to supporting. Each have great chances of winning. Haynes’s direction is full of restraint until it’s time to pull the trigger, and when he does, it’s a cool shot. This is very fine filmmaking.

PS Great soundtrack. Eddie Fisher’s name is even invoked!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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