It seems that Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Blue is the Warmest Color” has beaten the announced lesbian drama “Carol” to the starting line in creating a compelling big screen drama of two women in love. Then again, “Blue” may not go over well once it arrives in America because of its likely NC-17 rating. In comparison, “Carol” has much more significant backing when you consider the stars involved (Cate Blanchett and Mia Wasikowska), plus Harvey Weinstein distributing.
No matter which one makes the most impact in the seldom-explored lesbian genre, it’s a significant step forward for both Blanchett and Wasikowska. Especially for the latter actress, her explorations of the most complex women could ultimately make more of an impact than Lea Seydoux’s blue hair in “Blue.” One reason Wasikowska may steal the show is that “Carol” takes place in the 1950s when repression for a lesbian encounter provided more drama than a freewheeling romance.
That’s going to be advantageous for fans of Wasikowska who love her ability to project complex feelings through her eyes. She’s already played repressed characters in more ways than one, most famously to mainstream audiences in “Jane Eyre.” And you could say “Carol” is a same-sex version of “Eyre”, particularly in Blanchett playing the older equivalent to Rochester.
Yes, we’ll even see Blanchett’s character have to deal with a vindictive husband, even if he’s not locked away in an attic as Rochester did with his crazed wife. That’s quite a move for Blanchett as well, even if we’ve seen her tackle the opposite gender (as in Bob Dylan) for “I’m Not There.” It was a logical move for her to play a lesbian, albeit one who’s moving that direction for meaning and not a one-night stand.
Both Wasikowska and Blanchett could be the ones who progress the lesbian drama in America, ironically by way of Australian actresses who now dominate here. While the two may have some love scenes together, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll be graphic in a way that turns off segments of the public. Even so, with gay issues in America still having detractors, what could it potentially do for the careers of Blanchett and Wasikowska?
It may not be much of a shock for avid followers of Wasikowska after playing the straight daughter to lesbians in 2010’s “The Kids Are All Right” and acting out some shocking scenes in her recent “Stoker.” She’s now poised for more daring roles that still play up her astute subtlety so she won’t be accused of being ostentatious for possible movie awards. As well, the mystery of her in real life gives her character in “Carol” more intrigue.
For Blanchett, this arrives during a time when she’s still doing the more family-friendly “The Hobbit” franchise in reprising the character of Galadriel. She’s also back on Oscar watch now that she’s having a second wind career renaissance in landing parts for Woody Allen’s next film, plus two Terrence Malick projects. “Carol” is that project likely to be singled out among all others, which might have been strategic.
Much like “Brokeback Mountain”, “Carol” will perhaps be talked about considerably after it’s done. And as much as it reinvents ideas and careers, it may be playing it safer taking place in a time when the repression was far more interesting. In turn, that leaves more room for Blanchett and Wasikowska to do more roles like it later when the setting is in a modern-day, progressive location.