Set in 1952 NYC, “Carol” tells the story of the love between two women. Standing in for writer Patricia Highsmith, on whose novel “The Price of Salt” the film is based, Therese (played by a never better Rooney Mara) is an observer of the world. Carol is played by the always good (and by good, I mean super-terrific) Cate Blanchett. The women are opposites in many ways. Blanchett is smoldering and looks like she might explode at any minute, while Rooney is young, restrained and unclear of her place in the world.
Carol is extricating herself from a loveless marriage to a bully, Harge (played to the letter by Kyle Chandler). He just doesn’t understand why she can’t love him. He is unable to process it, which leads to him being deeply fearful of himself, but especially of the woman who has rejected him. Carol is a lesbian, though I don’t think we ever hear the word once in the film. What happens between her and Therese is not the first time she has been with women during her marriage. I assume she got married in the first place because, as an upper-middle-class woman, that’s what she was supposed to do. But as you can imagine, the marriage was doomed.
What’s so extraordinary about this film is that it is not a film about shame. It is a film about love. Carol refuses to be ashamed about who she is and who she loves. Thier courtship begins in a department store through stolen glances. Therese is taken with everything about Carol. You can almost see Rooney Mara holding her breath, not knowing how to handle these feelings that have rushed into every sense of her being.
Women & Hollywood talked to “Carol” producers Liz Karlsen and Christine Vachon about how Karlsen got the right for the film, why Cincinnati was the ideal city for the shoot and what Vachon does to avoid reading scripts.
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