05 January 2016

Best of 2015: Carol (Todd Haynes)

Carol. Todd Haynes. USA/UK.

Only the upcoming award season will be able to tell us whether the buzz patrol (or the hype train, as my friend Brian put it) had done a disservice to Todd Haynes’ latest triumph or not. After all, Carol, an adaptation of Patricia Highman’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt, has been gaining traction since last May, when it was poised to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, only to lose out to Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan and be awarded a shared consolation prize for Best Actress (curiously awarded to Rooney Mara instead of Cate Blanchett and split between Mara and Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon roi). And yet with all the hype and all the praise surrounding Carol, I still found myself unspoiled and even a bit surprised by the film, an elegant and enthralling experience (two adjectives I never thought I’d see myself using to describe a Hollywood lesbian melodrama in 2015).

Like fine wine and Anne Bancroft, Blanchett appears to get better with age, and as the title character, she’s impeccable. Smoking cigarettes, wrapping Christmas gifts, and removing one’s gloves has never been quite this alluring. Dividing his career into two clear arenas (“women’s films” and “rock n roll pictures”), Carol sits beautifully alongside Haynes’ other “women’s films” (easily the preferable of the two sides): Safe, Far from Heaven, and Mildred Pierce. I’ll be curious to see how he does combining both elements like he did with the brilliant Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story in his next feature, a Peggy Lee biopic with Reese Witherspoon. For Carol, I just hope that you too are unphased by that precarious hype train and that I haven’t added fuel to that fire. Carol is now playing theatrically in the U.S. and the U.K. from The Weinstein Company and StudioCanal respectively. UGC Distribution will open the film next week in France.

With: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith, Carrie Brownstein

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