Todd Haynes has made some solid films (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, etc) and he manages to move his cast of characters in this sensitive film based on Patricia Highsmith’s 2004 novel ‘The Price of Salt’ to equal the impact and timing of Highsmith’s concept in her novel. Phyllis Nagy adapted the novel for the screen.
According to Highsmith’s story, Therese (Rooney Mara)is nineteen and working in a department store during the Christmas shopping season. She dates men, although not with real enthusiasm. One day a beautiful older woman comes over to her counter and buys a doll. As the purchase is a C.O.D. order, Therese makes a mental note of the customer’s address. She is intrigued and drawn to the woman. Although young, inexperienced and shy, she writes a note to the customer, Carol (Cate Blanchett), and is elated and surprised when Carol invites her to meet. Therese realizes she has strong feelings for Carol, but is unsure of what they represent. Carol, in the process of a bitter separation and divorce, is also quite lonely. Soon the two women begin spending a great deal of time together. Before long, they are madly and hopelessly in love. The path is not easy for them, however. Carol also has a child and a very suspicious husband dangerous ground for the lovers. When the women leave New York and travel west together, they discover the choices they’ve made to be together will have lasting effects on both their lives. Considered to be the first lesbian pulp novel to break the pulp publishing industry-enforced pattern of tragic consequences for its lesbian heroines, The Price of Salt was written under the pseudonym of Claire Morgan by Patricia Highsmith – the author of ‘Strangers on a Train’ and ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’.
Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are brilliant in this delicate story. Sarah Paulson adds depth as Carol’s previous lover Abby. The flavor of the 1950s is superb as is the cinematography and musical score. The only casting problem is with the men – blustering insensitive performances especially by Kyle Chandler as Carol’s husband-on- the-way-out disrupt the flow of the film distractingly. Otherwise it is a triumph for all concerned. Still highly recommended