I didn’t know much about Patricia Highsmith, author of the terrific Ripley novels, many of which have been made into good movies, and of Strangers on a Train, one of Hitchcock’s best. I didn’t know that she was a lesbian (bisexual, actually, though she said her relationships with men were always unsatisfying). This movie is based on her novel The Price of Salt, published under a pseudonym because in 1952 lesbian novels were considered trash… and mostly were. It explores the relationship between a rich woman (Cate Blanchett) and a shopgirl (Rooney Mara) just exploring her own sexuality. They begin a relationship, and take off on a drive across the country. They consummate their relationship sexually in a little motel in Ohio, and then find a private detective has recorded their passion. There is a brutal custody fight for Carol’s child, and a separation of the two, but the novel and the film end on a note of hope, which was unheard-of in those days, when dykes had to kill themselves in the end.
The film is as good as everyone was saying it is, but it failed to touch me as deeply as it should have. I don’t known why that is. Sometimes I just fail to connect, and in this case I’m willing to admit that it might be my fault. Both women were nominated for Oscars, and deserved it. But how Cate was in the running for Best Actress and Rooney was somehow Best Supporting Actress is something I don’t think even the fucked-up Academy could explain. It’s ridiculous; they had about equal screen time. Rooney winning would have been a travesty. Not her fault, but there it is.
I enjoy spotting anachronisms in films, and there was a big one here. It is taking place at the end of 1952, and some of the cars are a treat to see, including the Packard they are driving. But at one point the women get some directions to the Interstate. Which was just a gleam in Eisenhower’s eye at that point. He wouldn’t even be sworn in until a few weeks later. Shame on you folks to not spotting that!