Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Women in Love

If only every movie I went to alone wound up with a film discussion in the lobby.

Maybe it was the mostly female audience or perhaps the topic of lesbian love or, for that matter, even the ambiguous ending, but five of us (including two particularly savvy moviegoers/readers, one of whom remarked about the preview of the new Coen Brothers film "Hail, Cesar!" that, "They could make a movie of the alphabet and I'd go see it!") found ourselves in the lobby afterwards for quite a while, dissecting "Carol," the film we'd just seen.

With younger friends referring to Cate Blanchett as "the Meryl Streep of our generation," and Todd Haynes directing, I'd been looking forward to seeing this movie about two women who fall in love in the early 1950s.

As bad as it must have been to be a straight woman back then with no reliable birth control, clearly it was far worse to be a gay woman.

Part of our post-film discussion centered on the period-looking cinematography and another part on the fanatical attention to period detail. As one woman put it, "The music was right and that never happens, like when you hear the Beatles in a movie set in the '50s. My husband always notices if the cars are right, but I always notice the music. They got it right in this one."

So, too, the cultural climate references. When Carol's husband leaves after a screaming confrontation, she badly needs a smoke but discovers she's out.

"Just when you think it can't get any worse, you run out of cigarettes," she mutters to herself without irony. Because cigarettes were life in 1952.

Actually, the conversation had begun inside the theater as the credits rolled at the end when the two women next to me were discussing what the ending meant. As I got up to leave, they stopped and asked me what my interpretation was. We had differing opinions, as it turned out.

Once in the lobby and organically joined by others, we took a poll to see what the majority thought. Intentionally ambiguous? Or just Haynes' usual subtlety? Happy ending or no?

And "happy ending," what could that possibly have meant in 1952? Even if the two women acknowledged they loved each other, there was no openly living together, so what would happiness involve?

Not that that's a question that only applies to women in love in the Eisenhower era. And on that note, we convened for drinks with strangers.

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