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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

On Sledgehammers

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday February 4, 08:45 pm
The heavy-handed Carol is icier than Trump’s heart

Carol
Roxy Theatre
3.5 out of 5

In his ongoing quest to become this generation’s Douglas Sirk, filmmaker Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Mildred Pierce) tackles yet another story of forbidden love set in the 1950s. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt, the story originally raised eyebrows for its frank depiction — at the time — of a lesbian relationship. Highsmith was all but openly gay and wrote a thinly disguised version of herself as a supporting character.

Shot in 16mm to striking effect, the film chronicles the relationship between Therese (Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and a high-society figure (Cate Blanchett), the Carol in question. Therese is deeply dissatisfied: stuck in a store clerk gig and pressured by her bland boyfriend to get married, she is ripe for a new beginning. The slightly predatory Carol sweeps her off her feet, but behind all that bluster hides a woman terrified of losing her child to her domineering husband (Kyle Chandler).

Considerably less titillating than Blue Is the Warmest Color, Carol is a very cold endeavor, which is a problem for a character study that relies on the leads’ chemistry. Don’t get me wrong, Carol is impeccably made (superb acting and dialogue, looks like it was shot 60 years ago) and can hold your attention. But loaded silences can only get you so far.

Even for a Todd Haynes’ film, Carol is a touch heavy-handed. All the male characters are loathsome, Therese would rather play with trains than dolls, and Sarah Paulson as the title character’s ex-girlfriend looks just like Patricia Highsmith. Haynes has talent but his act is becoming repetitive. As polarizing as his rock dramas were (I’m Not There, the underappreciated Velvet Goldmine), there was at least an attempt to venture outside his comfort zone. Dealing with gay themes is (thank goodness) not as groundbreaking as it was once, and Haynes needs to update his repertoire badly.

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