You don't have to look far to find the word 'masterpiece' attached to Carol. The film has garnered a significant amount of praise since its debut at Cannes last summer, and the critical swoon has continued in a winter flurry of write-ups quick to analyze is intense interest in nuance, the way it seems paced to mimic the seductive qualities of its title character, how it uses a grainy film stock and a muted palette while still allowing us to name-drop Douglas Sirk.
Indeed, Carol is a beautiful piece of work in many ways, and there's a strong case to be made for the so-perfect-it-feels-near-serendipitous pairing of director Todd Haynes with novelist Patricia Highsmith. Carol is based on her second novel, published at the time under a pseudonym: 1952's The Price of Salt. Highsmith's prose tends towards the psychological, but often (or, at least, in the case of Tom Ripley) fixates on the importance of appearances. Haynes is a filmmaker who has long been interested in precisely these themes, stressing style as central to substance and exploring the role of artifice in queer culture. We need only to look to the Oscar Wilde-style quips uttered by Velvet Goldmine's pop idols to understand Haynes' general philosophy.