Funny story: I went to the theater after work last night with the intention of seeing Carol but realized that I had gotten my times mixed up, so I wound up seeing Brooklyn instead, because I’m not emotionally well-equipped for Room yet and that was my other option. So I went back to see Carol this afternoon because it’s important and I needed to.
It’s been that kind of weekend.
But this actually works really well for a post because there are some basic similarities to the movies but they’re actually quite different and mind, they’re both good, but — well.
In both films, a young, somewhat naive girl living in less-than-classy New York City in the 1950s with dreams of something beyond her current work in a retail establishment, overseen by a boss who raises her eyebrows a lot, seeks to find herself and in the process finds love. At some point, the girl’s face is painted on. For situational reasons, the romance is analyzed by the girl’s surrounding cast, and a suitor challenges things. After a trip away from home causes conflict in and questioning of the relationship, the girls ultimately arrive at a similar conclusion. Ladies support ladies throughout.
The joys of Brooklyn were mostly Saoirse Ronan’s acting (compelling face she’s got), the ladies supporting ladies as above, the interplay of Ireland and America (and the bevy of Irish accents, which are a pleasure to listen to), and the aesthetic. If it had been set in the modern era, I probably wouldn’t have given a damn. If I hadn’t heard good things, I probably wouldn’t have given a damn. If it hadn’t consistently been mostly about Eilis’ emotional arc and journey, and her relationships not just with her man friend but with her friends and family, it probably wouldn’t have held my attention. But all things convened in a way that made me pleased, and I did feel a stirring of connection to the overall narrative.
The joys of Carol were the ladies’ acting, the ladies supporting ladies, the aesthetic, the sweet god to quote drift partner “I wanted to set myself on fire.” A phenomenon has been observed where straight critics don’t notice the chemistry in this movie, the absolute electricity between Carol (Cate Blanchett) and Therese (Rooney Mara), but queer women have been over the moon. Relationships between heterosexual couples in media and real life are often telegraphed to the point where you couldn’t doubt what was going on even if you tried (I know, I often try), but relationships between queer women are often, well, subtler. It’s probably the reason why it’s possible to ship many relationships between women in media even if they’re played allegedly platonic, because so many of the soft cues of women being close to each other aren’t inherently sexual and just look like, as per the meme, gal pals. Where heterosexual relationships are bookmarked by countless romantic cliches, femslash comes down to hands on each other’s bodies, softly sentimental phrases, “love comes in at the eyes.” And boy howdy with Carol it certainly did. The addition of real-life super-lesbian Sarah Paulson as Carol’s close friend and ex-fling was a delight, as was the cameo by very bisexual Carrie Brownstein.
(And the commentary on how men behave. Especially when they’re not getting their way. Especially when they’re not getting their way because of queer women.)
So overall I appreciated both films, but I would have given a damn about Carol no matter its time period, no matter what buzz I heard. Because at the end of the day, I will always have more time to care about queer women.
–your fangirl heroine.