After having heard an interview by my favorite interviewer in the world, Terry Gross of Fresh Air, I had to see this movie. I don't, for the most part, watch movies. And, it is odd that I would choose to see a movie about lesbian love. (I'm of the gender that does not have ovaries.) I am, however, quite impressionable and Terry and the people she interviewed (Todd Haynes, the director, and Phyllis Nagy, the screenplay writer) made it seem so fascinating with their stories about the making of the movie, the novel that it was based on (The Price of Salt, originally) and the author of that novel. It was irresistible, even. I thought about the movie constantly before I saw it. I carried it around in my heart for days, like an amulet.
Cate Blanchett is incredible. She is not a classic beauty. Her eyes seem to close from the bottom up. Her cheekbones are pronounced and her mouth always seems like she's about to cry – not in a pouty French way, but in a way that kept me on edge. Is she going to smile? Is she going to laugh? Is she going to cry? She played the part of Carol Aird to the point that I believe this is what she's really like – a severe, intelligent, determined (wealthy) housewife and mother in the 1950's who is an agent of her own destiny and perfectly capable of making her own life given the resources available to women in 1950's United States. In scenes involving men she is 100% in control of the situation (at least in appearances). She has grace and composure that people naturally respond to. With Therese Belivet she is always more focussed. But, she also lets her guard down so that Therese sees emotions and insecurities that men would not be privy to.
I don't know that I've seen Rooney Mara before. She plays Therese, a timid yet competent young woman in New York City who falls in love with Carol, a customer she sees at the department store where she works. She reminds me very much of the character Amélie in the movie by the same name. Her dark hair and timid personality are reminiscent of that character. Therese knows she wants to be a photographer, but it takes some prodding from others to convince her to pursue it. She's subservient in the roll of a department store clerk in a rather abusive environment and she loves to hang out with the guys. She's at an age where she can, and does, accept whatever adventures life throws at her. So, falling in love with a another woman, while it may not be what she expected, she is predisposed to go along with it, without resistance. She does, however, intercede meekly in destiny. For example, when Carol – accidentally or not – leaves her gloves on the display counter Therese mails them to her using the address from the order she placed for her. From there Carol invites her to lunch.
There were a couple of scenes that stuck out to me. In one, Therese's boyfriend is walking her home. He has declared that he loves her and wants to marry her, and as they walk she talks about her photography. When she says she is thinking about putting together a portfolio, he abruptly changes the subject to their trip to Europe (which he's paying for.) He is a 1950's man and her world is supposed to revolve around him. She can have her little hobbies, but he's there to keep priorities straight. Compare that to the scene in which a friend gets her a job at the newspaper where he works, almost insisting that she pursue photography. Also, compare it to a scene in which Carol buys her a nice camera.
In another scene early in the movie Carol is brushing her daughter's dark hair in front of a vanity mirror and teaching her to count by counting the brush strokes. Later, in a motel, Therese is sitting in front of a vanity mirror and her dark hair is so like Carol's 4-year-old daughter that the similarities in the scenes cannot be an accident. Carol is much older than Therese, and sophisticated. Carol has experience and Therese is learning her way in this different world.
The cinematography in the movie is incredible. I don't even know where to begin to analyze that because I know nothing about the art. But, I can say that it is captivating, it is beautiful and it makes me happy that there are people making movies like this, (as opposed to blockbuster films.) If you didn't speak English I would still recommend seeing the movie, and without subtitles or dubbing (*shudders*). It would still be a captivating movie, and I'm not certain how much you'd miss without understanding the dialogue. (I wouldn't recommend turning the sound off and watching, because the ambient noise is very much a part of the experience.)
Somebody heard me talking about the movie and asked if she should go see it. That's a tricky one to answer, but my thought is that if you find yourself asking that question, then yes, you should see it. As for everybody else... well, it is not a blockbuster movie, it is not action-packed, it's more or less an artsy movie. But, it is such a good movie that I couldn't stop thinking about it for days after I saw it. The passion is still there when I think about it even a week later.
So, do consider seeing the movie, either at the theater or at home. Terry Gross didn't let me down on this one. It is amazing.
Thank you for reading. Do come back.
e A r n i e