Carol — Peter Fitzgerald Reviews
With everything going for it — one of the screen’s finest actresses Cate Blanchett, stellar art direction by Jesse Rosenthal, Sandy Powell’s mouthwatering costumes, and the best original score of the year by Carter Burwell, Todd Haynes’ romantic drama, “Carol” misses the mark by a mile due to a flat, seemingly second draft screenplay by Phyllis Nagy.
Not that Todd Haynes has a brilliant record to live down story-wise. As with all of his previous films, Haynes’ films provide an empty pantomime of nicely composed shadows and light where there should ALSO be rich, layered characters inhabiting a compelling tale-well-told. But, without a first-rate screenplay, T.H. is once again left to his threadbare bag of tricks: glamorous femmes with non-descript hopes and/or misbehaviors, male cardboard cutouts mouthing clichés in predictable mid-century settings crystalized in amber. Bo-ring!
As with Carol’s protagonist Therese (played by Rooney Mara channeling Audrey Hepburn,) this film doesn’t know what it wants to be, and has no ambitions or a solid through-line. Every rich opportunity for surprise, humor, pathos or invention on such fertile soil is supplanted with a predictable plot that ultimately climaxes in two, cringe-inducing staring contests between Moony and Blanche that left me wanting my hour and 45 minutes back.
On a personal note, I find the practice of miscasting straight actresses and actors in gay roles to be of the three-dollar-bill variety these days. Exceptions are this year’s “Grandma” starring Oscar-bait Lily Tomlin and “Tangerine.” Let’s face facts kids — homosexuals are of a different cloth than heterosexuals and it projects every time a breeder minces or butches-it-up. Sure, gay actors have been playing straight since Edison’s Kinetoscopes and pulled it off, but I’ve never quite bought it. The list is endless, but that’s another review.
But, Imagine a major motion picture with gay actors playing same-sexers in the world of a powerhouse script with a top-flight director at the helm. BOOM!
It still hasn’t been achieved to full effect — yet.