Monday, December 28, 2015

Movie Review: Carol

So, I saw the movie Carol over the weekend.

Honestly, I think my better movie reviews are when movies are bad, so I don't have a ton to say about this one. (Flash movie review by gay guy sitting in front of me at the movie theatre: "Too much talking, not enough scissoring!" To that I would just recommend a different movie.)

My take on things is that Cate Blanchett is divine in practically everything she does, and her portrayal of 1950s lesbian/bisexual Carol Aird is no exception. To be looked at by Carol, let alone loved, would be everything.

Why yes, I would come visit you Sunday. Thank you for asking.

Secondly, for a film featuring love between two women in the 1950s, I was pleased both by the non-tragic ending and its avoidance of making the heterosexual male romantic interests in the women's lives complete jerks. I mean, Carol's husband, what's-his-face from Friday Night Lights, was a jerk, but in the end seemed didn't turn out to be 100% jerky.

It always feels cheap and easy to get an audience to hate people who are unsympathetic and who have no redeeming qualities. For instance, some lesbian/bisexual movies will feature the women engaging in really awful sex with men, which is then contrasted with eventual fulfilling sex with women (as well as soft lighting and camera angles on unidentifiable body parts).

Yet, in my opinion, the best films and TV show people not as pure monsters or angels.  I don't want to be told who the villains are, I want to decide first if there are villains at all and second who they actually are, for myself.  Life and love are complicated, you know?  So, it feels more rewarding when heterosexual men in lesbian/bisexual films are shown as more nuanced while still inviting the audience to root for the women to end up together anyway (obvs).

That being said, the queer female gaze was strong with this one. Ultimately, I found the most sympathetic characters to be Carol and Therese, and it was their story that was central. Their responses to one another unfolded slowly and both Blanchett and Mara's understated performances seemed to mimic an era when same-sex love had to be subtextual, brimming below the surface, by necessity.

In sum, I thought Carol was an epic A+ lesbian/bisexual movie. And those, as we know, are rare.

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