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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Carol & Room

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas to catch a couple Oscar hopefuls before they beat a hasty path out of town. On the docket: Carol and Room.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn’t know from the trailers if you’ve seen any (which I haven’t).
Dear Reader(s), Awards Season is a funny thing here in Smalltown, USA. Unless you’ve got yourself a freakishly-realistic bear attack, your picture may expect a run of about seven days. Thus I found myself at the movies on a Wednesday afternoon in January, watching two films that interested me about as much as one of those “Real Housewives” shows. First on my agenda: Carol. 
A young photographer falls for a sophisticated older woman. 
Ahhhh…forbidden love. It always sounds just a bit tawdry, doesn’t it? While Carol tells the tale of an affair that was, for the time, utterly impossible, there’s not a hint of dirtiness about it. The romance is a slow burner, with not even a kiss before the movie’s midway point, and the major love scene is as sterile as an operating theatre. 
Respect for the subject matter is appreciated, but a taboo affair should feel at least a little dangerous. There are also some weird shots that linger so long as to be almost comical. That’s the bad news is. 
The good news is, Carol is a lovely story, slowly paced but never dull. The family drama is well-played, and fleshes out our love story without feeling like an intrusion. 
Should Cate Blanchett go home with Oscar on The Big Night, the Academy will undoubtedly be accused of choosing old-and-safe over young-and-edgy (again), but, for my money, she is deserving. 
Rooney Mara is equally extraordinary and moving. For all its deliberate pace, the movie never feels long, and, a superhero fangirl stuck in a grownup movie even has a *squee* moment when Cory Michael Smith (Gotham’s Edward Nygma) turns up, so there’s that. 
Carol runs 118 minutes and is rated R for “a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language.” 
Carol is a beautiful love story that boasts some very special performances, and, like The Danish Girl, provides nice reminders of how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Carol gets six.
Next up: Room.
A young woman who bore a son while being held captive attempts to recover from her ordeal, while the boy experiences the outside world for the first time.
In the interest of full and fair disclosure, I’ll always admit when a movie’s main or only problem is that it’s not “my thing.” Room is most certainly not my thing (nor is Carol, for that matter), but it’s got much bigger problems. 
The first ten minutes of Room are so insufferable that it was all I could do not to walk out. Most of the first half is barely watchable, and not remotely in the way a capable telling of this harrowing story might make itself unwatchable. 
Rather than sympathizing with characters that should be very sympathetic, I was bored and even annoyed with them. The film picks up somewhat once it puts “Room” in its rearview, which might be attributed to happier subject matter or simply to more going on. 
I attribute it mostly to Joan Allen, a great actress who elevates anything that’s lucky enough to have her. Brie Larson is as good as you’ve heard, though not my Best Actress winner, if the Academy gives me a vote. (Hint: it does not.) 
Kid actors are never less than a risky proposition, and, while it may seem unfair to place such a big burden on such small shoulders, it’s youngster Jacob Trembley who ultimately could have made Room fully engaging, but, sadly, does not. 
There are a fair few emotionally wrenching moments where you think the film might be finding its feet, but it overstays its welcome so badly that those are barely remembered by the time the picture reaches its longed-for conclusion.
Room clocks in at 118 minutes, and is rated R for “language.”
Room is this year’s Boyhood, an unjustified critical darling for what it should have been more than for what it is. 
Maybe next time they should consult Tommy Wiseau. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Room gets three.
Until next time…

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