Todd Haynes’ romantic drama ‘Carol’ takes place during a crisp New York winter in the early fifties and is based upon the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt. Carol (Cate Blanchett) is strong-willed and sophisticated but suffering the trauma of a divorce with her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), which is complicated further by a custody battle for their daughter. Whilst searching for the perfect Christmas present for said daughter, she meets shop worker Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) with whom she embarks on a forbidden relationship. Their romance clashes with the narrow minds of a less accepting time, but can love prevail against adversity?
The plot unfolds at a slow but steady pace, perfectly capturing the nervous excitement and awkwardness of the early stages of a relationship through to the point where Carol and Therese have an almost telepathic bond, expressions often saying more than words can. That’s not to say the script isn’t joyous but sometimes less is more, and the silences are so effective. As good as the characters are, the backdrop they inhabit also deserves a mention. The high production values and attention to prop detail give the cinematography a rich texture and a dreamy glow which feels suited to the subject matter with just enough authenticity.
The success of this adaptation heavily depends on the acting, and Blanchett and Mara more than deliver, the juxtaposition of their performances highlighting the fact that you can’t help who you fall in love with. Carol is an elegant powerhouse, hard on the outside but with a soft, vulnerable centre. Therese on the other hand is wide-eyed and innocent, and has an endearing fragility to her that gives the resemblance of a porcelain doll. The contrast between them adds to their connection which is fascinating to watch in its carefully handled development.
Todd Haynes succeeds in recreating the rigid yet dazzling fifties in a way that illustrates how far we have come in the acceptance of the LGBT community in society, and tells a hugely emotional story in the process. His greatest achievement is in the magnificently nuanced performances he draws from Blanchett and Mara and with awards season underway, ‘Carol’ will be deserved contender. Rooney Mara, in particular, should be a hot favourite in her categories. Her tender portrayal of Therese Belivet is, as Carol describes her lover, ‘flung out of space’.
In co-founding Apple and giving us the Mac, the iPod and the iPhone amongst other gadgetry, Steve Jobs arguably changed the landscape of modern technology. Following his untimely passing in 2011, it was only a matter of time before his story was immortalised in cinema. The list of talent involved reads like the film equivalent of the perfect iTunes playlist with Danny Boyle in the director’s chair, Aaron Sorkin on writing duties and Michael Fassbender in the eponymous leading role. Loosely based on the biography of the same name by Walter Isaacson, the story unfolds through his conversations with his loyal marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), the former Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) and fellow co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), exploring the personality behind the products.
Avoiding the standard biopic structure, the film is split into three acts, from 1984, 1988 and 1998 behind the scenes of key product launches. This clever approach helps encourages creativity in the visuals and offers a platform for Sorkin’s typically sharp script. It’s the norm for the a screenplay to weave through and compliment the vision of the director, but it feels as though the tables are turned for a change and instead Boyle’s artistic flourishes decorate the dialogue, which is fast-flowing and always fascinating. One scene in particular featuring intense verbal ping-pong between Jobs and Sculley is mesmerising in its acute delivery.
Despite not having a physical likeness, Michael Fassbender carries off the role of Steve Jobs very impressively and succeeds in not portraying him as a hero or a villain, and making him appear determined, strong-willed and ruthless to the point of being unlikeable at times. His performance is aided by the stellar support from his co-stars. Winslet does well to handle a scary amount of lines with her character’s thick Polish accent but takes a backseat slightly, with the men in the cast sharing the big moments. Rogen gives the least Rogen-esque turn of his career, showing he can handle weighty material and escape the stoner typecasting but as good as he is, Daniels is even better. Having worked with the writer previously on The Newsroom, he is a natural with the intellectual articulation of Sorkin’s words and is on scintillating form.
Boyle and Sorkin’s collaboration has come under criticism due to the apparent historical inaccuracies in the way the story is told, but in terms of the filmmaking, it is difficult to find faults with it. Stripped back, it is essentially two hours of talking but due to the intelligently constructed subtleties in the direction and score, ‘Steve Jobs’ becomes frantic, dramatic and exciting. It doesn’t always present the man himself in the most favourable of lights, but highlights the significant impact his iconic work has had, not only in the technology industry, but in how we communicate and live our lives across the world.