The Bewitching Performances of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol, the movie
Based on the 1952 novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, and directed by Todd Haynes, the movie Carol boasts stunning performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
Carol is a gem of a movie, effortlessly carried on the shoulders of its brilliant actresses. The perfect depiction of the suffocating 50s – with the ever-present cigarette smoking and dry martini drinking - reminds us, at times, of the carefully detailed production design of Mad Men. Deceptively simple, and, yet, telling a powerful story of social prejudice and ignorance, choice, and compromise, the movie reaffirms the universal truth that freedom must come from within. But always at a price.
Christmas’s time. Therese Belivet (Mara), works a sales clerk at the toy section of a department store in Manhattan, but dreams of becoming a photographer for the New York Times. An elegant and sophisticated older lady, Carol Aird (Blanchett), browsing through the doll’s section of the store, catches her attention. The woman, visibly a wealthy suburban housewife, raises her eyes for a couple of seconds and notices the girl staring at her. The attraction is mutual and palpable. Carol approaches the shop assistant. The doll she is hoping to buy for her daughter is out of stock, says Therese. Carol then asks her what kind of doll she would recommend instead. Therese confesses she was never really that interested in dolls as a girl and suggests a train set as the gift. The woman agrees and orders the toy to be delivered to her house. As she walks out of the store, Therese realizes she’s left her gloves on the counter…
This is the beginning of their passionate love affair. Carol and her husband are about to divorce. Although Carol’s husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), has always known about his wife’s sexual orientation – she has had at least one affair before – he gets furious when he finds out he will be replaced by a young girl, and that things seem to be more serious this time. Harge still loves Carol and will not let her go without putting up a fight. He decides to make life incredibly difficult for Carol, threatening to deny her shared custody of their daughter for her immoral behavior.
Carol and Therese go on a long car trip west, where they have their first physical contact, in a highly erotically charged scene. In the meantime, their intimate conversations have been recorded by a private detective, hired by Harge, who now has proof of the deviant sexual behavior of his wife and intends to use it as evidence in court.
Despite the passion she feels for Therese, Carol is a mother after all, and, therefore, she decides to give up on their affair to keep the right to see her child. At her lawyer’s request, she goes into psychotherapy to be cured of her abnormal tendencies.
But her passion for Therese is too strong and Carol will have to make a drastic decision.
Rooney Mara’s character is the one with the more marked arc. She grows from a silly young girl, who says yes to everything and everyone, to a full-fledged woman, totally in control of her desire and the consequences it leads to. Watch the YouTube trailer below:
Empowering to women of any sexual orientation – and I would dare say to men as well – Carol makes you reconsider your choices in life: what degree of importance do we need to assign to social conventions, how can we accept and prioritize the inevitable trade-offs involved in creating a satisfactory life for ourselves? These themes are universal and timeless.
The final scene of the movie is a breathtaking testament to the greatness of these two actresses, who are simply superb. It’s one of the most compelling final scenes I remember watching in a love story. Even more surprising, it takes place without any words. All we see is eyes. And they speak volumes.
Not to be missed.