In 1950s New York, department-store clerk Therese (Rooney Mara) dreams of a better life; she falls for Carol (Cate Blanchett) an older, married woman.
Review by Louise Keller:
Chemistry, integrity and love are the foundations of Todd Haynes' emotionally gripping drama in which Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara deliver haunting performances. They play two women who meet by chance and form an immediate connection. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt, Phyllis Nagy's screenplay captures every nuance of the burgeoning relationship between a wealthy, elegant woman in a loveless marriage and an impressionable shop assistant who has not yet learned the art of saying no. Haynes has the ability to seemingly stop time as he transports us into the 50s, when we become intricately involved in the complex emotional lives of Carol (Blanchett) and Therese (Mara). The storytelling is sublime, as is the look of the film. It is a work of sheer beauty.
Like Therese, who spies Carol across the department store, we are unable to take our eyes off her. Blanchett is breathtaking in the title role, keeping us riveted to every nuanced action and reaction. She can evoke a wave of sadness simply from the delivery of a line of dialogue. Awards and accolades will come. Dressed in mink, Carol looks expensive from top to toe: we feel as though we can even smell her expensive perfume. A train-set, a pair of gloves, a thank you lunch and a weekend drive to New Jersey is the way the relationship begins. It is during that first lunch that the clearly intimidated Therese admits to indecision as she orders the same sophisticated lunch (and dry martini) as her chic companion; it is as though Carol has bewitched her. Later, after the two women embark on a roadtrip in Carol's twilight taupe Packard, Carol admits to her own brand of indecision: 'I never did know what I was doing'.
The central relationship between Carol and Therese is the film's anchor, while those around it are metaphorically swaying in the wind. Kyle Chandler is extremely good as Harge, the husband who still loves Carol desperately; Sarah Paulson manages to make Carol's ex-lover Abby a sympathetic character; Jake Lacy is suitably confused as Therese's admirer. Carol's loving relationship with her young daughter Rindy (Kk Heim) is the catalyst for much of the action. These are the key characters that epitomize the themes that Haynes addresses with great care: marriage, child custody, social acceptance, sacrifice.
Judy Becker's production design is faultless and the tight close ups of Edward Lachman's cinematography brings a feeling of intimacy. There's wonderful chemistry between Blanchett and Mara and Haynes uses restraint and a lack of dialogue to maximize on its impact. Less is more and it pays off. The sex scene between Blanchett and Mara is exquisitely shot; while the passion between the two characters is clear, the overall feeling is one of sublime beauty as the two bodies discover each other. The use of music is especially haunting.
Haynes has made a beautiful film that is above all, a love story. Its reality is not dissimilar to that of Far From Heaven (2002), being set in the same era within the same conservative social boundaries.
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CAST: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Sarah Poulson
PRODUCER: Elisabeth Karlsen, Tessa Roiss, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley
DIRECTOR: Todd Haynes
SCRIPT: Phyllis Nagy (novel The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Edward Lachman
EDITOR: Affonso Gon¨alves
MUSIC: Carter Burwell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Judy Becker
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 14, 2016