Previews: “Carol”, “Experimenter” and “By the Sea”

Carol (2015)


Story: Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith “The Price of Salt”, “Carol” is a romantic drama set in 1950s in New York. It is about a young department-store clerk, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and her “forbidden” relationship with a much older affluent woman, Carol (Cate Blanchett) who goes through a bitter divorce.

Director: Todd Haynes.

Leads: Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

Analysis: The film has to be outstanding regarding its directing and acting merits. “Carol” competed for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2015, where Mara won the Best Actress Award (shared), and the film also topped the Golden Globe nominations. Highsmith’s novels enjoyed quite a success on screen, for example, both Anthony Minghella’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999) and Hossein Amini’s”The Two Faces of January” (2014) were reviewed positively by critics; and the in-depth exploration of lesbian relationships on screen is becoming quite a trend, e.g. “Blue is the Warmest Color” (2013) and “Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014). Overall,  no fault found so far.

Conclusion: Carol” promises to be a touching film, full of inexplicable emotion and depth. A definite must-watch.

Predicted score: 10/10

Experimenter (2015)


Story: The story is based on a real psychology experiment conducted by Stanley Milgram in 1961. The experiment is based on the obedience hypothesis and concerns people administrating electric shocks to strangers under certain conditions.

Director: Michael Almereyda.

Leads: Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder.  

Analysis: The film has to shine intelligence and be full of psychology. The trick here is that most people will, undoubtedly, find the results of Milgram’s study on obedience very surprising, if not downright shocking. A possible problem here is that the film may be too tedious to watch for people (mostly past or present psychology students all over the world) who are familiar with Milgram’s experiment. The trailer does not look as though there will be something more to the film’s story than the controversial stuff surrounding Milgram’s personality and his “unethical” experiment. As one critic put it, “you need more than an intriguing social experiment to drive a feature-length film”.

Another interesting view on obedience is the movie ‘The Experiment” (2010), possibly based on the documentary of the same name, and starring Adrien Brody. That film, also based on real events, depicts the so-called controversial “prison-study” experiment conducted by Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University in 1971. Conformity and obedience behavioural traits go hand-in-hand, and, therefore, there is also an old movie “12 Angry Men” (1957) for a nice viewpoint on human “conformity” in action.

Conclusion: The film promises to be immensely thought-provoking and extremely interesting from a psychological viewpoint. The directing and acting look just as good, and if we couple all that with the fact that “Experimenter” is actually based on a real story, then we are definitely faced with a film that is worth a watch.

Predicted score: 8/10

By the Sea (2015)


Story: The film is set in mid-1970s. A former dancer, Vanessa (Angelina Jolie-Pitt) and her husband, Roland, a writer (Brad Pitt) visit a small French town where they intend to re-build their troubled marriage. Both suffer from their own personal problems, but, nevertheless, try their hand in rekindling their romance.

Director: Angelina Jolie-Pitt.

Leads: Angelina Jolie-Pitt and Brad Pitt in their respective leading roles; with the support cast consisting of Niels Arestrup (“War Horse(2011)), Mélanie Laurent (“Enemy (2013)) and Melvil Poupaud (“Laurence, Anyway” (2012)). This movie marks the married couple’s first collaboration since “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (2005).

Analysis: The intention here is clear: to film something melancholically beautiful and neurotically deep, but the story appears so amateur-written it looks more as though it was just one of the “whims” of the writer to put something like this on screen, rather than a product of some serious and well thought-out sequence.

The pros could be the nostalgia for 1960s-1970s French art-house productions, two celebrity giants to observe, interesting support cast, and the beautiful shots of a French countryside. The cons could be too many too count, from the lack of depth, intelligence and a viable story to the lack of everything else. Quite unfortunately, the story looks as though it would mediate successfully between pretentiousness and boredom, and back again, paying a special tribute to some done-to-death soap opera once in awhile.

Conclusion: The film looks as unimaginative as its title and synopsis; there is an attempt to mimic French art-house-style films, and the two beautiful people to observe, but if the director and the leads were not well-known stars, the film would not have passed the approval of even the most desperate and low-budget production teams.

Predicted score: 4/10


6 Responses to Previews: “Carol”, “Experimenter” and “By the Sea”

  1. DB, can’t wait to watch Carol. I haven’t seen Wynona Rider do anything lately; it will be good to see her on the screen again. The Experimenter looks like an interesting film.

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      Yes, Winona has been quiet, but I like the fact that she is in some “psychologically interesting” films be it “Girl Interrupted”, “Black Swan” or now “Experimenter”. I have heard they now decided to do Beetlejuice 2 with Tim Burton, I hope not because I am a big fan of the original.

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