“Carol”

Giv­en its rap­tur­ous score, its el­eg­ant vin­tage cos­tumes, and the trade­mark beauty with which Todd Haynes com­poses his frames, “Car­ol,” the latest film from the me­tic­u­lous dir­ect­or, can eas­ily re­gister as vi­brant and lush.

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  • 223656591

  • 223656591

Giv­en its rap­tur­ous score, its el­eg­ant vin­tage cos­tumes, and the trade­mark beauty with which Todd Haynes com­poses his frames, “Car­ol,” the latest film from the me­tic­u­lous dir­ect­or, can eas­ily re­gister as vi­brant and lush. Even the regal glam­or of Cate Blanchett, who plays the gussied-up title char­ac­ter, is enough to make “Car­ol” glow.

And yet, there’s a fog that hangs over this cer­ti­fi­able mas­ter­piece—one of ci­gar­ette smoke, con­stant un­ease, and the gloom of post-World War II New York. Car­ol, a sub­urb­an house­wife not so un­like Blanchett’s char­ac­ter in “Blue Jas­mine” (both wo­men mask their messes with grand, high­brow af­fect­a­tions), meets shop­girl Ther­ese (Rooney Mara) in a de­part­ment store at Christ­mas. In­ten­tion­ally or not, Car­ol leaves her gloves be­hind, and they es­sen­tially be­come the glass slip­per that sparks the pair’s ro­mance, which is drastic­ally dif­fer­ent for each wo­man.

Mara may nev­er achieve the al­tern­ately gran­di­ose and quietly tra­gic bravura of Blanchett, an act­or who will go down in his­tory with the greats, but she’s per­fectly cast here, play­ing a wo­man who of course looks like a deer in head­lights, as everything around her is ter­ri­fy­ingly, yet tan­tal­iz­ingly, new. And while Car­ol and Ther­ese seem both wrong and right for each oth­er (they don’t ini­tially scan as a cheer-worthy couple), there’s something between them the audi­ence isn’t meant to see—something we must trust is rich enough to war­rant en­su­ing trauma.

Such is just one fa­cet of the im­macu­late re­straint of “Car­ol,” eas­ily Haynes’s best film and the best ad­apt­a­tion of a nov­el by Pa­tri­cia High­s­mith (“The Tal­en­ted Mr. Ripley”). There are no preachy speeches about the story’s queer­ness, only be­wil­der­ment from a deeply des­per­ate hus­band (Kyle Chand­ler). There’s no elab­or­ate ex­plan­a­tion of the bond between Car­ol and her old flame Abby (the lu­min­ous Sarah Paulson), just glimpses in­to an en­dur­ing sis­ter­hood that need not be defined.

In re­cent years, the plight of the des­per­ate house­wife has been ex­plored on big screens and small, but it’s hard to think of an­oth­er tale that’s been so sym­path­et­ic. And con­sid­er­ing it’s based on a text that was penned in 1952, “Car­ol” is at once a game-changer and found­a­tion­al tale.

Car­ol

R

Four reels out of four

Now play­ing

Mis­sion: Im­possible – Rogue Na­tion
R
Now avail­able

Say what you will about his curi­ous per­son­al life, but Tom Cruise still has the chops as a bona fide ac­tion star, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to his sur­pris­ingly dur­able “Mis­sion: Im­possible” fran­chise. This fifth in­stall­ment sees him re-team with co-stars Jeremy Ren­ner and Ving Rhames (among oth­ers), while his char­ac­ter, Eth­an Hunt, evades the CIA while aim­ing to ex­pose a glob­al crime ring. ■


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