Our current society emphasizes “being true to yourself” as perhaps the highest moral good. Things are celebrated today that would have been unthinkable to discuss in public just a generations ago because people shouldn’t have to live in denial about who they are and, it seems, it’s not the place of anyone else to judge their decisions and lifestyle choices. This is a good thing – I believe that – but it’s a situation that many people are having trouble getting used to. People move faster than groups so while individuals have come around on some topics it’s taking the mass of us a bit longer to adjust to the new normal.
Carol, the new movie starring Cate Blanchett and Mara Rooney, is about that kind of situation. Set in the 1950s, Rooney plays Therese, a young store clerk who one day meets Carol (Blanchett). The two experience an immediate attraction that becomes deeper and more complex until it impacts Carol’s facade of a marriage to Harge (Kyle Chandler), who uses the prevailing moral attitudes of the time to add an element of havoc to Carol’s life. So she finds herself having her job, her relationship with her children and more threatened while at the same time she struggles with that growing attraction and entanglement with Therese.
There were three posters that were part of the domestic campaign. While I’m not absolutely sure of what order they were released in I’m going to do my best to get as close as possible. All three used the same basic motif but with some changes here and there in presentation.
The first poster is divided in half horizontally, with Blanchett on the top and Mara on the bottom. Both look glamorous with their 1950s hair and makeup just perfect and both looking in opposite directions, which may be a nod to the story in the movie. Both their names appear just above the title treatment while at the bottom of the poster we are told this is based on a book from the same author as The Talented Mr. Ripley, something that seems designed to appeal to art house critics specifically.
The second puts Mara on top and Blachett at the bottom. This time they’re seemingly looking at each other – at least that’s how you can interpret the positioning of the two of them – while other people speed by them. It’s meant to present these two as having an instant connection, the kind that makes you focus only on that one person to the exclusion of everyone else. That’s supported by the copy “Some people change your life forever,” copy that’s split between the two halves of the poster to bring that point home a bit more concretely.
The final theatrical poster (I think) drops the split-screen conceit and puts both actresses in the same frame. This time it’s clear Blanchett is looking at Mara, with the latter seemingly getting out of a car or something like that on a snowy day. “Longing” is the central theme here. This one drops any kind of copy that hints at the story in favor or quotes from critics praising the performances of the two leads as well as the direction by Todd Haynes.
The last one works the least well of the three, I feel. The split-screen motif was a strong one that played up both the attraction of the two women as well as the way they felt like this was something forbidden, that there were forces keeping them apart. I still like this third edition, but it’s the weakest of the batch from a thematic point of view, sacrificing subtext for promoting the accolades the movie has received to date.
The movie’s only official trailer – I’m not counting an international teaser – is, quite frankly, a gut-wrencher. It shows the flirtation and courtship of the two women, including how their relationship causes personal problems for Carol when it comes to her family. It’s full of longing glances across rooms, gentle touches and even more explicit physical connections. It also shows the very real impact the decision of these two women to pursue that relationship has on those around them, all of which is important.
The first half of the trailer is particularly devastating emotionally because we see that flirtation and such but it’s juxtaposed by the narration, which is obviously Carol writing a breakup letter to Therese, explaining why they can’t be together. Even without that narration, though, the trailer would back an emotional punch just based on the looks the two women give each other, the actions of the other characters and the beautiful cinematography that’s on display.
Online and Social
The official website for the movie opens with a pop-up of the trailer, which I’d encourage you to watch again because it’s really good.
Moving on from that, “About” has a pretty decent write-up of the movie’s story that covers a lot of character motivation ground. “Cast” provides career retrospectives on Blanchett, Rooney, Sarah Paulson (who plays Carol’s friend and possibly more), Jake Lacy (who plays Therese’s frustrated boyfriend), Chandler and more, including director Haynes.
“Videos” just has the one trailer, so the plural there is kind of inaccurate. “Photos” has a decent-sized collection of both stills from the movie and behind-the-scenes shots. Finally “Press” has some pull quotes from critic reviews that rotate in and out but unfortunately no link to the reviews themselves.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There wasn’t much in the way of advertising done. There was at least one TV spot created that played like a mini-trailer, showing the relationship beginning between the two women and hinting at the repercussions of that on the lives they’re leading. It’s good, but this is the kind of movie and story that benefits not a whit from shorter material. It needs space to breathe.
Media and Publicity
The movie first got a big press blitz when it debuted at the most recent Cannes Film Festival, where it was lauded for the performance of the leads as well as Haynes’ direction.
An interview with Mara that was conducted by a friend of hers would focus on how she felt working with Blanchett, how she prepared for the movie and more. Mara would also talk about how this isn’t a political movie but one that’s just about falling in love and surrendering yourself to someone. She even mentioned she worked to change the way she spoke to sound less like a 2015 hipster and more like the kind of wispy 1950s single girl she portrays.
Mara would talk to the press about the themes of the movie, her Oscar chances, how she almost let the movie pass her by and how it was ultimately Haynes’ involvement as director that got her to commit here. Similar topics would covered in an interview with Blanchett that would also touch on whether it was still supposed to be shocking to see a love story between two women like this. All three princples – Blanchett, Mara and Haynes – would of course talk about filming the love scene between the two women, because we can’t not talk about that.
Haynes on his own talked about casting the movie, its awards chances, changing some of the details from the book the movie is based on and more.
Blanchett was honored at New York’s Museum of Modern Art for her achievements in and contributions to film, something that brought out costars and directors to laud the actor’s talents.
The focus here is on the acting, which is just about right. Putting Blanchett and Rooney front and center and making it clear the movie is about the relationship between the two of them and not about anything else is a great call. That focus is shared by the trailers, the posters and more and I think it makes for a great campaign. Not only that but the way the campaign – again, mainly the trailers and other material – emphasizes the unique visual style of Haynes is a solid decision since it will bring out his fans in spades.
There are some quibbles I could make – like I said, I don’t care for the final poster or the TV advertising – but overall this is a strong campaign. Assuming it can turn out the audiences who enjoy this kind of highly-stylized feature and those looking for strong, risk-taking performances it should do pretty well.
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