Note: I watched this many weeks ago, so I am basing this post entirely on memory.
Just to put it out there: I consider Cate Blanchett the best actress of her generation. I really love her style of acting, mainly because of it is so obviously influenced by acting legends such as Judy Davis and Glenda Jackson. I know many people have issues with the slight theatricality of it, but I just love it when these theatre actors (Geraldine Page!!!) bring their craft to the screen. I am always in awe of the total control, technique, and “aura” these performers have, and like I said before, watching them perform is like going for an acting class. Of course, the down side to it is that it sometimes distances me from their characters, which I have experienced with all the actresses I mentioned, but it is definitely satisfying to watch them perform their craft.
Carol is a great film, and in my opinion, better than Todd Haynes’ other film Far From Heaven. It is less “obvious” and heavy-handed than the former, which is still a good film mind you, but over here I could feel the sincerity and meticulousness from Haynes in crafting the film. The costumes, cinematography and acting are all wonderful, although I feel like I need to re-watch to really feel the love most people have for Rooney Mara’s performance.
To me, Cate is the star of the show. Right from her entrance into the departmental store, she steals your attention at every frame, wonderfully capturing that “aura” of a rich, diva-ish housewife from the 50s (over here, we call them “tai-tais”). I mentioned earlier about how I sometimes feel distanced from Blanchett’s performance, and that was what I felt about her Oscar-winning work in Blue Jasmine. Mind you, I am not denying that that performance is technical perfection (I am still a Bullock voter for that year), but I never felt for it as much as I should. Over here though, Blanchett beautifully captures the layers of Carol’s personalities in her acting, and the result is simply mesmerizing.
Carol is essentially an unhappy housewife who is undergoing a messy divorce and fighting for custody of her only daughter. What Blanchett does incredibly well is the way she constantly explores the different aspects of Carol’s unhappiness. I especially loved her first lunch (or dinner?) with Therese. I really felt Carol’s desperate need for companionship, even though she never explicitly shows it, choosing to conceal it beneath an artificial facade of happiness.
As the movie progressed, it was great watching Blanchett peel these “layers” of artificial happiness away, and we get to see the desperate and depressed side of Carol more and more, especially when she realises that reality is against her. The thing about Blanchett’s work is how in control and in a way, “quiet” it is. There is still that distinctive element of theatricality in her mannered style of acting, but it just feels real all the time. She chooses to capture moments and layers of Carol’s personality in small, distinctive moments and acting choices. My absolute favourite moment was when she translated the pain of losing her daughter into that simple heartbreaking line, “We’re not ugly people Harge”. Just magnificent.
She doesn’t have any distinctive “baity scenes” to her advantage (and I don’t think they were going to give her a third Oscar so soon too), but Blanchett’s performance here is a magnificent character study. And that final smile…fantastic. 5/5.