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Carol (2015)

The Weinstein Company
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/15/2016

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/9/2016

In my recent review for The Danish Girl, I wrote about the phenomenon of having a modern film tackle a modern issue by examining how this issue was handled in the past. For that film, the topic of people identifying as transgender was studied through the story of a person who did this nearly a century ago, paralleling those who are making this journey today. In a very similar way, Carol paints a portrait of how the ways in which homosexuality are viewed have changed over the years.

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a young woman who leads a fairly quiet life. Although she is interested in photography, she works in a department store. She's been dating Richard (Jake Lacy), but can't commit to the trip to Europe he keeps proposing. One day, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) comes into the store and makes a purchase from Theres'e section, leaving her gloves behind. Therese mails the gloves to Carol, and, as a thank you, the older woman invites Therese to dinner. Carol lives with her young daughter, Rindy (Sadie and KK Heim), having divorced from Harge (Kyle Chanlder). Carol and Therese begin to spend some time together and during a road trip, realize that they are truly attracted to one another. This creates issues with Carol bids for custody of Rindy, while it drives Therese away from Richard. Will these two women ever be happy?

Carol comes from Director Todd Haynes who is apparently obsessed with homosexuals in the 1950s, as he explored this issue, but with a gay man, in 2002's Far From Heaven. With Carol, he's created a very intimate portrait of women who are from two very different worlds who are drawn to one another. Both are at a point in their lives where they are looking for something, and they have a whirlwind romance. While the movie does contain one sex scene, it's more about the attraction between the two women and words like "gay" and "lesbian" aren't used (as far as I can remember). Yet, there are those who don't approve of Carol's choice to interact with other females, and Harge accuses Carol of breaking a "morality clause". It's clear that it will be a challenge for Carol and Therese to be together.

As Carol was nominated for six Oscars, I was certainly aware of the movie and its subject matter. But, to be honest, I expected the movie to be "bigger" for lack of a better word. Knowing that it concerned the challenge faced by homosexuals in the 1950s and their inability to be open about who they were, I had assumed that there would be more scenes in which Carol and Therese, either together or separately, were questioned for their behavior and possibly ostracized. But, other than a few moments, we don't get this. Is this due to the fact that in the 1950s, no one wanted to talk about lesbians, even those who didn't approve of it? In its place, we get a decidedly small movie in which we see Harge make his accusations and then hear Carol talk about seeing a psychologist for problems and that's about it.

The issue with Carol is not that Haynes has decided to make a small movie, it's that he's made such a cold movie. One could argue that it has to do with the sort of restraint with which people approached their lives in the 50s, but there is no passion here. We see Carol and Therese together and it's incredibly sterile, even in the scenes where they are alone together. Mara has decided to play Therese with an incredibly flat affect and we are forced to watch her just sit there, staring into space. Carol doesn't fare much better, as she comes across as a spoiled rich woman who is used to getting what she wants. She clearly loves her daughter, but is also willing to risk losing her. The distant nature of the film is magnified by the fact that, as far as I can tell, the pair only spend a short amount of time together, but we are asked to root for their relationship. Not only is the film emotionally cold, but Haynes has chosen to shoot it this way as well, as the colors are very muted.

Carol is yet another Oscar-bait movie which presents an important subject, but simply isn't an engaging or interesting movie. Despite the fact that this is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, there is actually very little story here, but this doesn't stop Haynes from dragging it out for two hours. The movie is slow, boring and cold and the Super 16mm photography is ugly. Blanchett overacts while Mara overacts, creating a cyclone effect which makes you wonder exactly what kind of tone the movie was going for. Exploring the social injustices suffered by gay people in the 1950s is a very worthy idea, and perhaps someone will make a good movie about it.

Carol did make me yearn for the days of full-service department stores on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of The Weinstein Company. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. Carol was shot on Super 16mm film, which is known for its grain and we certainly get a noticeable amount of grain here. This format is also known for delivering nice colors, but Haynes has chosen to use a muted palette here, so the colors are often cold. The image does show a nice amount of detail, but, again, this heightens the grainy look. The depth is adequate. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a period drama, we don't an abundance of overwhelming audio effects here, but the scene in the store does deliver a nice amount of stereo and surround sound effects from the bustling crowd and the film's score sounds fine.

The Carol Blu-ray Disc contains only a scant amount of extra features. "Behind the Scenes Gallery" (36 minutes) should actually be "galleries", as it offers eight brief segments, which focus on the actors, Haynes, the script, the look of the film and the score. These contains interviews with the actors and members of the creative team, as well as some on-set footage. "Q&A Highlights with Filmmakers & Cast" (29 minutes) has footage from four separate events (presumably screenings of the film) in which Mara, Blanchett, and various members of the production team field questions about the movie.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long