Monday, April 24, 2017


Year 9, Day 114 - 4/24/17 - Movie #2,608

BEFORE: Third and (thankfully) final day of jury duty.  The last two days were complete wastes of my time, waiting for the lawyers to find four more people for the jury I was picked for - and this simple case which I'd been assured would end by April 28 was threatening to stretch into next week, and my wife and I were planning to go to Atlantic City this coming Sunday, which would create an obvious conflict.  So she suggested I tell the court officers that I had a vacation planned - which was true, I hate to lie about such things - and the court officer told the judge, and they decided to let me go.  I feel a little guilty about shirking my civic duty, but it seems like other potential jury candidates were saying whatever was necessary to not get picked, and all I did was tell the truth about having other plans.  Originally we had a hotel booked in Atlantic for NOW, April 23-25, and we pushed it back a week when I got the jury duty notice, just to be safe.

At some point, you realize this process is inherently flawed, and showing up day after day is messing with your life and your schedule, and I just can't live day-to-day like that.  My wife has a more stressful job than I do, so I hate to ask her to move the vacation a second time, just so I can feel good about serving on a jury and doing the right thing, according to my rules.  But they've let me go, I got that piece of paper that says I served, and it's not my fault that they couldn't pick a full jury on a proper timetable.  My conscience should be clear - still, I worry about bad karma, so maybe I'll make a charitable donation of some kind, to try and balance the scales.

Cate Blanchett carries over again from "Truth" - and I realize I'm facing a week of (mostly) one-word movie titles.   "Cinderella", "Truth" and now "Carol", with more to come.

THE PLOT: An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman in 1950's New York.

AFTER: It's funny, both "Truth" and "Carol" featured court proceedings, of different kinds, just as I was trying to properly serve my jury duty.  OK, the one in "Truth" was more an informal deposition, and this film features a competency hearing, but it's still a notable coincidence.

This film got a lot of attention when it was released a couple years ago, and in a way it's a shame because coming in to it now, if you read anything at all about it when it was released, then you kind of know exactly where it's going.  It might have been better as a viewer to not know that these two women are going to have a relationship, because when you know it's coming, it becomes just a question of when.  There at least would have been an element of surprise if they could have kept that plot point secret, but then of course, it's the whole reason for making the film in the first place.

Obviously, we're meant to look back on this relationship between two women in the 1950's with our modern eyes, and acknowledge that things then were very different than they are now, and society didn't really understand what it meant to be gay, or admit that a woman could be a lesbian and a mother, or treat homosexuality as something other than as a sickness or an aberration.  Most of us are more enlightened now, and we can look back on narrow-minded people from that time with a mix of pity and disappointment, because people were mistreated and hurt and lives were ruined.

The reality is that this sort of thing did take place, though people perhaps talked about it less or treated it differently, but for the people in the relationships, it was normal to them.  And that's what's reflected here - as Carol and Therese meet and start spending time together, they have very normal dinner conversations about photography and Christmas shopping and what to eat.  That's a significant take-away, not just for a Hollywood film, but also for anyone who might believe the outdated stereotype that gay people can't form lasting relationships, that they only seek surface relationships based only on promiscuity.

But it's a double-edge sword when it comes to making a movie, because showing that a relationship between two feminine women (and thus dispelling another stereotype, the butch/fem contrast) can be completely normal and also occasionally uneventful also runs the risk of being rather uneventful itself, and though it may hem closer to the truth, who wants to see the humdrum day-to-day details of a relationship on-screen?

I just read a little about the author of the book this is based on, Patricia Highsmith, on Wikipedia.  It seems the book "The Price of Salt" was the first piece of lesbian fiction with a happy ending - that does seem significant.  (Highsmith also wrote "Strangers on a Train" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley"). Before this novel came along, the rules of fiction demanded that gay people either had to commit suicide at the end of the story, or switch back to heterosexuality.  And though the book that got turned into the film "Carol" was semi-autobiographical, it seems that Highsmith was known for sleeping with women, but getting along better with men in life.  Apparently a lesbian can also be a misogynist - as well as a racist, for it seems she didn't like blacks, Jews and Koreans, either.

Also starring Rooney Mara (last seen in "Her"), Kyle Chandler (last seen in "The Wolf of Wall Street"), Sarah Paulson (last seen in "What Women Want"), Jake Lacy (last seen in "How to Be Single"), John Magaro (last seen in "The Big Short"), Cory Michael Smith, Kevin Crowley, with a cameo from Carrie Brownstein.

RATING: 5 out of 10 motel rooms

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