Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman.
ActorsStarring: Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Carrie Brownstein, Cory Michael Smith, John Magaro, Kevin Crowley, Nik Pajic, Trent Rowland, Sadie Heim, Kk Heim, Amy Warner, Michael Haney, Wendy Lardin, Pamela Evans Haynes, Greg Violand, Michael Ward, Kay Geiger, Christine Dye, Deb G. Girdler, Douglas Scott Sorenson, Ken Strunk, Mike Dennis, Ann Reskin, Annie Kalahurka, Linnea Bond, Steven Andrews, Tanya Smith, Ryan Wesley Gilreath, Chuck Gillespie, Jeremy Parker, Giedre Bond, Taylor Frey, Liberty Fraysure, Robert J. Ashe, Anita Farmer Bergman, Colin Botts, James Brown, Chelsea Carnder, Gary Chinn, William Cross, Richard Doone
The movie is set in December 1952, initially in New York. Therese is a young girl working in a department store who has ambitions to be a photographer, and has drifted into a relationship with Richard, who wants her to come away with him on a trip to Europe, and has stated his intention to marry her. Therese is clearly uncomfortable with Richard’s premature seriousness in their relationship. One day in the department store Therese sees a confident, beautiful middle aged woman called Carol (Cate Blanchett), and is intrigued by her. When Carol comes over to ask about a purchase Therese offers advice, and a spark seems to be lit between them. Carol gets back in touch with Therese and asks her over to her mansion in New Jersey, where it transpires that Carol is in the process of divorcing her wealthy husband and arguing over custody of their young daughter. Carol is drawn to Therese and asks her to go away with her on a road trip over Christmas, and Therese impulsively agrees. The film then charts the development of their relationship, complicated by the divorce proceedings and the additional presence of Abby, a long-time friend (and ex lover) of Carol. Difficult choices have to made on all sides as the drama unfolds.
Todd Haynes (who previously has mostly worked in TV other than the well received “Far from Heaven”) directs with a deft touch, allowing the main characters to develop and for the actors to show off their skills, which they do with aplomb. Cate Blanchett exudes glamour in her mink coat, and Rooney Mara is reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn. Both are believable as they play out their developing relationship against the backdrop of stultifying 1950s morality, and show their mutual attraction with a glance here, a light touch there. The cinematography is ravishing, using the rich colour palate of 1950s American melodrama.
Rooney Mara’s performance particularly impressed me, conveying the sense of a young girl who has not yet figured out what she wants in life, from her career to her loves, frustrated by the roles that society expects her to play, in both career and relationships. Cate Blanchett is as superb as ever, a character under great stress yet managing to keep her poise, at least until a couple of key scenes were she reaches breaking point. The minor characters, from Carol’s boorish, perplexed husband through to Dannie, a friend who demonstrates unrequited love for Therese, all play their parts well, and despite the deceptively slow pacing the film never drags through its two hour running time.