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dir Todd Haynes
scr Phyllis Nagy
prd Elizabeth Karlsen, Tessa Ross, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley
with Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, John Magaro, Kevin Crowley, Trent Rowland, Cory Michael Smith, Carrie Brownstein, Greg Violand, Jim Dougherty
release US 20.Nov.15, UK 27.Nov.15
15/US Film4 1h58
Can I help you find anything? Rooney and Blanchett
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
With delicate precision, this story unfolds in a way that's both true to its period and fully relevant now. A beautiful companion piece to director Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce, this is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel about two women trying to live their lives the best they can, but finding themselves against the grain of society. And it carries a powerful kick.
Just before Christmas 1952, New York department store clerk Therese (Mara) becomes intrigued by glamorous, attentive customer Carol (Blanchett). They become friends despite the age and class gap, much to the annoyance of Carol's estranged husband Harge (Chandler), who feels that Carol's relationship with another woman (Paulson) destroyed his marriage. And it's simply incomprehensible for Therese's nice but over-expectant suitor Richard (Lacy). Of course, romance between Carol and Therese is impossible, but they make a spontaneous decision to take a road trip together, heading west.
This is exquisite filmmaking, gloriously designed, shot and edited to subtly get under the characters' skin, revealing to the audience things they won't admit to themselves. Each performance plays powerfully with unspoken subtext, anchored beautifully by Blanchett's alluringly expressive face and Mara's yearning steeliness. Both are so good that they almost make us wonder if we're reading something into the story that isn't there. So when they come together it's cathartic and revealing, and never remotely sentimental.
Nagy's elegantly constructed script refuses to focus on the underlying gun-in-the-suitcase plot so that the story plays out between the lines. This gives the film an almost overpowering intelligence, as it prowls provocatively around the characters, revealing layers and layers of inner longings and insecurities. Not only does this sharply echo the attitudes of the period, but it also reveals the part of human nature that finds it so difficult to cope with anything that doesn't fit within the mainstream.
In Haynes' capable hands, this isn't a gloomy story of women trapped within a harshly restrictive system. Without simplifying anything, the film becomes a subtle, knowingly realistic celebration of forbidden desire. It's about how love arrives in ways we rarely expect, throwing us right out of our routine and opening us to a world we never imagined. But the affect on those around us is no less intense, including lovers who are demanding, expectant or just wounded. And the film continually reminds us that what we see on the surface is rarely the truth.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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