Romance, as I’ve stated before, used to be something that compelled me. Love itself is rather compelling to most, especially those who have rarely had that sensation present within them. When it comes to films deeply involved in the passionate feeling, I’ve found that some of the best involve same-sex couples. Disobedience comes to mind.
Though these stories also tend to have that tired “forbidden” angle to it, where it’s placed in some ye olde fashion timeframe and everyone’s like, “Eww, gay?” That obviously adds some spice of drama to an already emotionally volatile affair. Carol is another one of these that seems to have very positive fanfare from those who viewed it. A good friend of mine also adores it. With all that, why not see how it is?
“An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman in 1950s New York.” – IMDb
Now then, when I brought up Disobedience earlier, it was not simply to describe. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I inadvertently compared the contents of Carol to it, for better or worse. In the end, I still the former… quite a bit more, actually.
More than anything, as the film went on, I became more agitated by how… standard it was? That’s not quite right, though; some aspects here and there are recycled from the common narrative routes I alluded to in the second paragraph, but it’s not totally cliché. I suppose I was expecting something a little more than what I received.
What also didn’t help was the very hit-or-miss performances by the actors. Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are phenomenal. No complaints can be (nor should be) filed against them. They carried the entire film. Pretty much everyone else, though, was mediocre. Particularly Kyle Chandler and Jake Lacy, the possessive men involved in both of the two female leads’ lives. Both came across far more as one-dimensional conflict-makers that didn’t help the drama achieve believable immersion.
Many of the events felt… easy, too. Like, there isn’t all that much that prevents these two from being together, outside of the obvious stigma of homosexuality in the 1950’s. Blanchett’s character has a family (including a young daughter), so openly sporting a female lover will certainly alienate others and isolate possible future opportunities. Still, that’s pretty much it. Mara’s character has very little tied to her; only Jake Lacy, who scurries off rather succinctly.
The magic of love did not totally grip me here, either. A character states early on that attraction is fickle, that people are attracted to whomever for whatever reason. “They just are,” so to say. This, I suppose, is used as justification for why the main couple are drawn to one another—nothing is really explicitly elaborated on in this department. They are in love because they are, and that’s fine. They certainly have enough chemistry to make their scenes together harmonious.
Such is what makes this film so enjoyable: the growing connection of the two leads. It’s only unfortunate that it’s constantly at the mercy of “The Plot” and its menacing position. Characters aren’t allowed to just be happy with one another. They must be toyed with and broken apart, all because of the expectations of society. How large a shadow this pressure casts throughout the entire film, that which can all but suffocate anyone throw underneath.
A keenly paced and methodical piece on love between two women of various differences. How people can affect one another’s lives and their persons. That inner vocalization was not lost on me, and was appreciated when the time called for it. Carol is something of a multifaceted exposé on people… only I believe it bites off more than it can chew. And the acting is kind of shoddy from anyone not named Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. And it’s kind of stereotypical. And… yeah.
Personally, I don’t really understand the hype. There are appreciable qualities and the two leads are dazzling in their roles. Yet it doesn’t do a whole lot with minor characters outside of creating conflict and inevitable tension. Generally straightforward and somewhat underwhelming, too, I wish it was maybe fifteen to twenty minutes longer, just to flesh out some of the things I thought it wished to convey. Ah well.
Final Score: 6.5/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.