Movie review: ‘Carol’ lacks chemistry

What It’s About

A luxurious-looking film about a romance between an affluent married woman and a young shopgirl, “Carol” has received much high praise during the awards season.

However, the forbidden romance has a remoteness that fails the basic storyline. I did not feel any love-at-first-sight mad passion.

Based on Patricia Highsmith’s romance novel “The Price of Salt,” the film, set in 1952, conveys the naivete of the era regarding same-sex couples.

The elegant and refined Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) meets Therese Belivet when she is in a department store trying to find a Christmas gift for her daughter Rindy. Gloves left on the counter sparks another encounter, and soon the two are sharing moments.

Carol is in a loveless sham marriage, attempting to get divorced, while angry husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) threatens her by using their daughter as leverage. He is a man of substantial means, and wealth and power are his weapons. The couple engages in heated conversations, and he is well aware of Carol’s double life.

Therese, an aspiring photographer who is captivated by the social graces of Carol, is dating Richard (Jake Lacy), who wants to marry her. Her doubts and stand-offishness increase as she is drawn to Carol.

The women take a road trip where their romance blossoms. It’s complicated by Carol’s situation.

So can they make it to the next level without fear of societal retaliation?


Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, naturally, is strong as a spoiled rich woman whose personal hell is understandable. Her regal bearing and velvety-smooth vocal delivery add to her reputation as one of her generation’s finest. She’s always good.

Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) is more understated in her portrayal of internal turmoil and romantic attraction.

Separately they are fine, but the chemistry is lacking as a couple.

The men don’t come off well — not understanding lesbians and feeling jilted and threatened.

What Works

The times are deftly captured by director Todd Haynes (“Far from Heaven”), whose cinematographer, Ed Lachmann, bathes the period with a golden glow. A lush life is portrayed in the finer things and gorgeous fashions, while 1950s Manhattan and America’s scenic routes are beautifully depicted. Carter Burwell’s music score soars.

What Doesn’t Work

Tasteful production values provide visual splendor, but I failed to connect to the women’s story.

  • Director: Todd Haynes
  • Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, and Sarah Paulson.
  • Rated R (a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language)
  • 118 minutes