Carol (Blu-ray Review)

CarolAnchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company are proud to announce the home entertainment release of CAROL—one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2015, from director Todd Haynes and starring Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett and Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara.  CAROL will be available for digital download on March 4, 2016 from Starz Digital before heading to Blu-ray™ and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment and On Demand March 15, 2016.  Special features include a Behind the Scenes Gallery featuring cast and crew—as well as a Q&A with cast and filmmakers.  Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel The Price of Salt, CAROL follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. As conventional norms of the time challenge their undeniable attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change.

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A young woman in her 20s, Therese Belivet, is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol, an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. As an immediate connection sparks between them, the innocence of their first encounter dims and their connection deepens. While Carol breaks free from the confines of marriage, her husband begins to question her competence as a mother as her involvement with Therese and close relationship with her best friend Abby come to light.

Here’s one of the Academy Award nominated films (And was a Best Picture hopeful before nominations) that I knew I’d come by.  Looking at it, it felt like one of those Oscar-bait films that one would equate watching it to doing homework.  The film you knew would get the buzz, the love, but ultimately you knew it wasn’t going to win Best Picture and likely might pick up one of its nominations.  The kind that you really just hear about and get big on in December and then after the Oscars, you forget all about it.

Fear not, Carol surprised me.  It was a rich, romantic film with conflicts, love and tension that had me hooked from the opening moments.   Featuring some captivating performances and lovely costuming, set designs, framing and photography…it just all sort of wrapped up in one beautiful little package.  Maybe it was my expectations, but the film really took me by surprise.  In an odd turn of events, Carol was the film I was sort of dreading finally getting to and Brooklyn was one I was super eager to check out.  After all was said and done, things came out quite the opposite of my preconceived notions.  I rather enjoyed Carol a lot and am still trying to figure out what was supposed to be so great about Brooklyn.

While I get the politics of it all, Rooney Mara is NOT the supporting actress in the film.  While nominated in the category she is clearly the lead or co-lead of the film.  In fact, its easier to make a case for Cate Blanchett as the supporting than it is Mara.  Regardless of all that hoopla, both our terrific in the film.  For Blanchett, she’s very good, best of the best, but it feels like a role she could walk through in her sleep.  With how talented she is…her walking through something in her sleep is pretty much better than anyone else.  Rooney Mara continues to prove she’s one of the most talented performers out there that is kind of underused.  She’s friggin’ great in this movie and does an outstanding job of displaying herself as a sort of outsider (odd one out) among everyone in the cast but Cate Blanchett.  Mara does such such a fantastic job with every cast member not holding an Academy Award of looking uncomfortable, lacking confidence and feeling distant.  Its not something I’m sure all people will notice, but its something that I think is actually quite profound and important in her performance.  Not to mention that the camera in this film absolutely loves her and makes a portrait of her every frame and movement.

Speaking of underused, we get Kyle Chandler in a strong turn for the movie.  He’s a smaller role, but a difficult and complex one.  Like anything he’s in, the man feels so natural with the script that its almost like he’s been plucked right from the time period and placed in the film.  Sarah Paulson and Jake Lacy put in some solid work, giving the type of work we’re accustomed to seeing them deliver.  John Magaro who was also in the Oscar nominated The Big Short pops up here in a small role and continues to display why he’s one of the best young character actors on the rise today.

Edward Lachman was nominated for Best Cinematography and hell yeah, he deserved it.  2016 was a very strong year in that category and every one of those nominated were deserved.  Of course, this is one I dismissed and ends up being another one I fell in love with (For what its worth, The Hateful Eight would have received the trophy had I been the sole decision maker).  Had I seen this movie before the awards, Carol would have been my dark horse candidate.  The way all the color is capture, the beautiful framing, the way it presents all the characters is just warming and lovely.  This movie primarily takes place in the winter, yet I could help feel so warm and cozy watching it.  During many scenes, I just wanted to pause and marvel at everything going on, which is strange with somewhat of a straightforward drama with a lot of “chit chat” scenes.

Carol is a terrific story of love, friendship and playing against the prejudices and misunderstood of the 1950s.  The film features astounding cinematography and some of the year’s very best performances.  Its got a very warm feeling to it, and will suck you into its romance and drama with such ease.  This one also has some scenes that bring stakes of terrific tension and suspense due to your involvement in the characters of the film.  Its definitely a top recommend and one that maybe should have been nominated for Best Picture after all.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Carol features some lush and beautiful photography.  Its rich in its beautiful display of color.  It has a sort of matte appearance and a very old school feel.  Detail pours through in every frame, catching all the fabrics on clothing or brush stroke on an apartment wall.  This film looks lovely enough in its conception, but its transfer here to home video is even moreso.

Depth:  Movements are smooth and cinematic.  Background imagery is plenty detailed and impressive when focus allows.  Some of the depth and spacing on display is pretty impressive, especially a moment where Carol confronts someone with a gun, the way the display and camera movements come together.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich, deep and consuming.  There is a hair of detail that can be a tad hard to see or lost in darkness.  Only minimal, but a few moments and some movements can prove to be somewhat murky.

Color Reproduction:  This is the most gorgeous aspect of the film’s Blu-ray release.  A wealthy palette gets a terrific display where every color really gets to shine on its own when given the opportunity.  

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are just a bit on the colder side and maintain a constant appearance and approach throughout the film’s duration.  Facial details reveal make-up, lip texture, freckles, moles, wrinkles and dimples.  Close-ups appear best, but medium shots look good too.  Long shots actually do impress as well.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  Carol isn’t really some big boisterous production that is going to capture you and intensely have you lifting off in your living room.  However, this 5.1 track is quite impressive in crafting its environments and interactions.  They make you feel right there, or able to just imagine things with precise accuracy.  Its clean, loose and incredibly well layered and balanced in its scoring and foley effects.

Low Frequency Extension:  Engines humming, doors closing, shoes clip clopping and even a gun firing are some of the effects that get a good jump from the LFE.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Rear speakers provide a nice trip to the ambiance, capturing people and sounds out in the street, in a department store or at a restaurant.  The front 3-channels show movement and placement with terrific precision.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is rich, clean and clear.  It has a warm feeling to it as every piece of diction soft or loud is represented.

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Carol comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Behind the Scenes Gallery (HD, 35:56) – A full on making of look at the film with cast and crew interviews focusing on different aspects, split into segments; “Cate Blanchett”, “Rooney Mara”, “Todd Haynes, Director”, “Phyllis Nagy, Screenplay”, “Edward Lachman, Cinematography”, “Sandy Powell, Costume Design”, “Judy Becker, Production Design”, “Carter Burwell, Composter”.

Q&A Highlights with Filmmakers & Cast (HD, 29:25) – A compilation of highlights from 4 different Q&A sessions featuring Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Todd Haynes, Jake Lacy, Phyllis Nagy, Judy Becker, Affonso Concalves & Carter Burwell.

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Call me surprised.  I went in to Carol with this being one to watch, just to watch and I wound up a pretty solid fan of it.  It does make a case that it could have been nominated for Best Picture.  However, it was worthy of the awards nominated, even though some of them were skewed.  This Blu-ray has an absolutely marvelous looking display of picture and sound while giving you a rich vault of interviews from cast and crew on various subjects of the film’s production.  Definitely pick up Carol on Blu-ray.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Carol (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    One of my favorite films of 2016!