Carol. A Not-So-Average 1950’s Housewife.

Carol-PosterIt’s official, The Season has started. No, DUH, we’re not talking about Christmas, we’re talking about The Awards Season. Although admittedly both involve sparkle, infighting and boozy parties, the awards season just contains more Botox.  And an early front runner is Carol. Nominated for 5 Golden Globes it won Rooney Mara Best Actress at Cannes but, far more importantly, took home the Golden Frog at the Camerimage festival. Now that’s a gong The Sloth would like on our mantelpiece.


Carol (Cate Blanchett) is a rich, bored housewife in 1950’s New York. Icily beautiful, she glides around her expensive home, cigarette artfully poised, in cashmere twinsets, perfect red lipstick and immaculately waved hair. Her days are spent shopping, having lunch and occasional playing with her daughter, the product of her loveless marriage. Wafting through a department store she comes across shop assistant Therese (Rooney Mara). Her Audrey Hepburn-esq looks and naive, innocent air capture Carol’s attention and she invites her to lunch. Which leads to an affair, which leads to a deeper relationship. But this is 1950’s America, where such things are not exactly acceptable, not least because Carol is married with a child, and fractious divorce proceedings ensue.


At first glance, this is the kind of cool, poised role Cate Blanchett could do in her sleep. But as the film progresses she gives us an increasingly complex character study that often leaves us unsure of Carol’s motives: is Therese just her latest plaything or is she genuinely in love with her? Much has been made of the film movingly exposing the impossibility of being gay in a less tolerant era, which it does, but that almost over simplifies it. Carol is as much about making choices between following your heart versus your head – should true love be pursued at the expense of destroying family? – and is a stronger, more rounded film for it.


Impeccably acted and stunningly shot in dreamy, hypnotic visuals that are eye-bogglingly perfect, Carol will lull you into another world. Beautiful, intelligent AND passes The Bechdel Test with flying colours.  Films like this don’t come along too often.  Don’t miss it.

UK release 27 November

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The Monuments Men. Who You Gonna Call?

monumentThat George Clooney can’t help himself. Wherever he goes, jolly japes, camaraderie and good times follow. Even, in The Monuments Men, to the front line of World War 2.

Based on a true story, it celebrates a small, little known group who took it upon themselves to save precious artworks from destruction by the Nazis. Founded by Frank Stokes (George Clooney), a university don, Frank recognised that war brought not only human destruction, but cultural and historical destruction. Having convinced the powers that be that art was a valuable commodity worth saving, he recruited a merry band of worldwide curators and art historians, including James Granger (Matt Damon), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) and Richard Campbell (Bill Murray). None soldiers, they underwent the most rudimentary training before splitting themselves off to artistically strategic cities.

Unfortunately, their higher purpose frequently fell on deaf ears, local commanding officers none too keen on rerouting long planned military campaigns to avoid an architecturally pleasing bell tower. And apart from saving art, they were also hunting it down, the Nazis having methodically stripped private collections and secreted works in unknown locations, destined for Hitler’s very own post-war celebratory museum.

It’s a rather uneven mix of joshy, boy’s own adventure tale (with rather older boys in rather longer trousers) and serious drama.  Not forgetting what appears to be a legal requirement of any contemporary WW2 movie, Cate Blanchette popping up as a feisty member of the French resistance, all scowls, cigarette smoking and Gallic hauteur. Clooney and Co do a great line in male bonding, doggedly standing by each other in times of crisis and unexploded landmines, always with a ready joke to lighten the tension. But underneath the joshing it raises valid points about how art is intrinsic to our history and culture. Don’t agree? Then imagine, as the film ponders, a world without the Mona Lisa. That’s a strange thought.

UK release 14 February

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Blue Jasmine. Woman On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.

jasmineBlue Jasmine sees Woody Allen’s recent European Grand Tour come to an end as he hops back over the pond to the US of A, hopefully refreshed and reinvigorated for his latest talky-thon.

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, part Park Avenue Princess – draped in Chanel jackets, silk shirts and Hermès bags – part Beverly from Abigail’s Party monster. Jasmine’s privileged, trophy-wife life is a whirl of benefit galas, air-kissing and throwing ‘the best dinner parties in New York City’.  Until her world crashes down with the revelation her supposed financial whizz of a husband is actually a dodgy-dealing, low-down dirty dawg. With him unceremoniously thrown in the slammer and her bank account wiped dry, Jasmine has no choice but to move in with her sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins, in San Francisco.

Ginger and Jasmine are adoptive, not biological sisters and as unlike peas in a pod as it is possible to be. Ginger is earthy, low brow and poor. So staying with Ginger, her two laser-gun touting young boys and grease monkey boyfriend Chili is Princess Jasmine’s idea of the most hellish purgatory imaginable.

The peripheral characters and storyline are really just meat for Cate Blanchett’s razor-sharp acting chops to tear chunks off and spit aside. By turns so obnoxiously self-centred we wanted to smack her ungrateful backside, then so utterly pathetic, delusional and mentally unstable, reduced to jabbering incomprehensibly in the street, we had to kind of pity her. But only kind of.

It’s a cracking study of one of the most complex and memorable characters to hit the screen in some time. Top marks Mr Allen, seems the holiday did you good.

UK theatrical release 20 September / UK DVD release 17 February

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