CAROL – Review by Susan Granger

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Perhaps I expected too much. But I was disappointed by Todd Haynes’ tasteful yet tedious adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel, “The Price of Salt,” published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan because Highsmith’s mother disapproved of her daughter’s romantic preference for women. Read on…

Since Cate Blanchett is one of our finest actors, it’s Oscar-bait, although I felt her performance in James Vanderbilt’s “Truth” was far superior. And elfin Rooney Mara does her best to replicate Audrey Hepburn’s gamine appeal, so popular in the ‘50s, the era in which this lesbian melodrama is set.

Carol Aird (Blanchett) is a wealthy about-to-be-divorcee who meets salesgirl Therese Belivet (Mara) while shopping for a Christmas gift for her young daughter Rindy. Because the New York department store is out of the doll she wants, Therese recommends a train set, which Carol promptly buys, leaving her expensive leather gloves on the counter.

After Therese mails back the gloves, Carol invites her to visit her elegant New Jersey home. While they eye each other longingly, they’re repressed, maintaining a modest demeanor.

Then, Carol asks Therese, an aspiring photographer, to accompany her on a cross-country trip in her gunmetal gray Packard. Clad in her mink coat, glamorous, gold-haired Carol is exquisite; insipid, indecisive Therese is infatuated.

Eventually, they acknowledge their yearning and physical attraction. Problem is: they exhibit neither sexual chemistry nor emotional rapport. There’s no playfulness, no humor. Only angst – and guilt.

Indeed, languid Carol seems to relate far better to her ex-lover Abby (Sarah Paulson), who remains her best-friend/confidante, coming to her aid when the going gets rough.

Working with screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, Todd Haynes’ (“Far From Heaven”) slow-paced direction is stylishly restrained, aided immeasurably by cinematographer Ed Lachman and costumer Sandy Powell.

Curiously, the most sensitive, affecting scene is not between the two women. It’s when Carol finally confronts her bitter, bewildered husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), begging him to put their daughter’s welfare above his vindictiveness in their on-going custody battle.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Carol” is a furtive 5 – that’s overly fetishistic and formalized.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.