Sunday, January 10, 2016

Carol's Unpredictable Moments

For all the sumptuous beauty of the settings and costumes of expensive 1951 hotels and bars, my favorite scene in Carol is set among dour suits at a table in a law office.  

Directed by Todd Haynes, based on Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt, much of the story follows a familiar pattern. 
We've seen Cate Blanchett's "Carol" of the upper-echelon seduce Rooney Mara's young "Therese" from her Bohemian life, and conflict when the husband stumbles on his wife with the younger woman. Once the story gets going, it all seems pretty inevitable.  We guess that some kind of drastic, punishing repercussion will follow the consummation of their relationship.

But as my friend Susan said, "When they sat down with the lawyers to argue over custody of the daughter, I had no idea what was going to happen." The eloquence and simplicity of "Carol's" plea is unexpected and memorable.  "It's going to get ugly," Carol warns, "and we're not ugly people."

I was intrigued by another scene that seemed to serve no purpose in the film. Briefly, we see Therese with pals in a theatre's projection room, all watching Sunset Boulevard.  The scene has no bearing on plot or character development, leaving me to wonder if we're seeing a clue to the director's thinking: does he see his film as analogous to the earlier one?  Is "Carol" a predatory older woman, like "Norma Desmond?"  Commenting on the film, Therese's friend is keeping score of times when the dialogue covers up what the characters really think. Is this a sort of directorial watermark, highlighting for us the Pinter-esque brevity and obliqueness of the dialogue?

No comments: