Carol (R)

Drama 118 min. November 20, 2015
By Stephanie Zacharek
Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin's sweet nectarine of a jazz standard "Easy Living" figures, in a glancing yet potent way, in Todd Haynes's Carol, adapted from Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt. Even though the lyrics speak of contentment -- "Living for you is easy living/It's easy to live when you're in love" -- the melody has a wistful glow about it, a suggestion that while there's no such thing as living easy, the dream of doing so is very real. It's the perfect song, then, for a story about two women who defy the rules of society by falling in love, a story written in an era when unions like this one needed to be kept exceptionally discreet. And it's a touch of warmth in a piece of filmmaking that, while beautifully modulated, is also as smooth and cool as marble.

Cate Blanchett's Carol is a suburban New Jersey housewife and mother seeking a divorce from husband Harge (Kyle Chandler, superb as always), one of those classic 1950s providers. She has met Rooney Mara's Therese, a New York department store clerk, and their affair barely begins as a friendship: Carol is quietly predatory, not in a deceitful way, but in the manner of a woman who has been kept too long from everything she desires. Therese, with her too-short, fringy bangs and anxious brown eyes, is slightly awkward, but she's also alert and intelligent -- she could be Carol’s undoing, rather than the other way around. Carol gives the appearance of having been constructed without seams or joints; its plot doesn’t so much move forward as drift. Yet its emotions run deep beneath.
Todd Haynes Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler Patricia Highsmith, Phyllis Nagy The Weinstein Company

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