Todd Haynes is someone who’s managed to build this reputation of being one of the most underrated American auteurs. If you look at his relatively small filmography it’s full of ingenious, underrated gems that never really got a lot of attention because they weren’t always accessible to a mainstream audience. Far From Heaven and I’m Not There is particular are two films that really stand out for me.
With his latest film Carol though, there has been significant buzz for some time ever since the film premiered at Cannes, which is rare for a Todd Haynes film.
Adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt and set in the 1950’s, Carol follows the story of Therese Belivet, a young aspiring photographer (Rooney Mara) and Carol Aird, a much older married woman (Cate Blanchett) who, after meeting at a departmental store develop a strong bond, but once they fall in love their relationship becomes one with complicated consequences.
As someone who was moderately excited for this film I walked out of Carol mostly disappointed because this is a film that just failed to compel me enough to actually care for it and at the end it just didn’t strike as the sort of work I’d come to have expected from someone like Todd Haynes.
What’s good about Carol is that it’s wonderfully made. Everything from Ed Lachman’s gorgeous cinematography to Carter Burwell’s symphonious score to the handsome production design make the film great to look at, and it’s hard not to admire the film. At it’s center the film boasts two very good performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, both of whom carry the film with their acting, Mara to an even greater extent, and again it’s hard not to admire them.
But my problem with the film is that it never really develops this relationship between its two central characters into one that could actually make you care, and as a result most of the film feels quite weightless and dull.
There are scenes in the film that are meandering and feel significantly drawn out and the script never focuses enough on the story or the central relationship to make the film compelling enough.
In the end Carol just left me bored. I think it’s a very well made film, with some very good performances but the weak script really brings it down and the end result is a film that’s mostly mediocre and one that doesn’t even hold a candle to most of Todd Haynes’s other work.