Directed by Todd Haynes

CI6kV9xUkAAYIeBThis is a tough movie to give a consistent review to. It is typical Haynes, in that he has given us a beautifully realized slice of life from a different era – while simultaneously showing us how that era defines what the “forbidden” in forbidden love means to those attempting it (not just what it meant to society). And in these ways, it works to perfection – especially since Haynes really knows how to end a film!

But while the discovery of attraction, the actions surrounding courtship, the day to day of puppy love, and the destructive nature of fifties hetero-normative culture are pristine in their focus, the first two acts are just plain dull. Haynes falls in love with his images – clothes, sets, objects, makeup and hair – to the extent that he, quite purposefully, lowers the volume of the dialogue so it becomes part of the imagery. This is all well and good, I suppose, but its Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara falling in love before our eyes! Maybe I’m just too much of an aurally motivated movie-goer, but I WANT to hear what they’re saying! I found it incredibly frustrating, since there is only so much you can do with pastel palettes and thick ties wrapped ’round the collars of  brown-fedora’d businessmen before you feel like you’re watching “Mad Men” with the sound off.

But let’s be clear about one thing…Rooney Mara is incredible. Full of life, and doubt, and spit, and anguish, and joy. Perfect. Blanchett comes close to matching her, and does when they’re alone on the screen, but as she must carry the plot, Haynes asks too much of the character (not of Blanchett), so occasionally the performance drifts off in to charicature – maybe that’s too harsh a word – in to expositionland. But I applaud the Golden Globes for ignoring the studio’s decision to put forth Mara in the Best Supporting category, and recognizing her in the Best Actress category, because I feel this is her film. I’d be remiss not to mention the great work of Sarah Paulson (who I normally don’t love), and Kyle Chandler (who I always do).

Finally, the score, from one of my favorite composers, Carter Burwell: it’s an odd mix. Lovely to be sure, but it’s almost as if he and Haynes sat down and said…”I wonder what it would sound like if you rewrote Philip Glass’ score to ‘The Hours’?” I was audibly shocked when the credits listed Burwell forty-five seconds in to the overture. That’s how sure I was that it was Glass. But, again, no matter. It’s stunning and a few of the short pieces are totally recognizable as Burwell. I look forward to owning it.

To sum up…worth seeing, for sure, especially as the two actresses are going to be nominated. It’s also probably important to see for what it says about attraction and the ability of true love to overcome the restrictions of societal norms. But don’t go after a large turkey dinner. You’ll never make it to the end.

Written on 12/26/2015

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