There’s a new queen of the Queen City, and her name is “Carol.”
The Cate Blanchett-Rooney Mara film, shot here last year, lived up to all of its pre-Oscar buzz at a screening Saturday night at Clifton’s Esquire Theatre for the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission.
Reviewers have called the film “gorgeous,” ‘flawless” and an Oscar contender. And I agree.
Blanchett, just nominated for a Golden Globe best actress award, also should be nominated for an Oscar for her performance as unhappily married Carol Aird, who pursues New York department store clerk Therese Belivet (Mara) in 1952.
Mara, who won best actress for Belivet at the Cannes Film Festival last May, also received a Golden Globe nomination as best actress for “Carol,” for her sensitive portrayal of a confused young woman maturing after her affair with Aird.
The movie is as much about Therese's transformation as Carol’s impending divorce to husband Harge (Kyle Chandler, “Friday Night Lights”) and custody fight over their little girl, Rindy.
“Carol” received five Golden Globe Award nods -- more than any other film -- including for best drama picture, director and original musical score. The Screen Actors Guild Awards listed Blanchett among the best actress candidates, and Mara for supporting actress. (The Globes and Cannes got it right, putting Mara and Blanchett in the same category.) “Carol” was not nominated for a SAG best picture.
Director Todd Haynes tells this period love story with beautiful empathy and passion -- often underscored with a simple piano and strings melody -- entirely at 50 locations in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area.
When “Carol” opens here Dec. 25, moviegoers will see many familiar sites: The Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, the old Shillito’s department store downtown; Maury’s Tiny Cove restaurant in Cheviot; Lytle Tunnel; Eden Park; the University Club; Cincinnati Club; a Grandin Road mansion near Edwards Road in Hyde Park (the Airds’ New Jersey home); and Second, Third, Fourth, Seventh, Race and Elm Streets downtown.
Not only did Cincinnati double for New York and New Jersey, but Haynes and the local film commission found spots around here when Carol and Therese took a road trip in her 1949 Packard to Philadelphia (Kostas Restaurant in downtown Hamilton), Chicago’s Drake Hotel (the Netherland Plaza) and Waterloo, Iowa (Kilby Road).
Evendale’s Hollywood Court Motel, Alexandria’s Spare Time Grill, Lebanon’s Shaker Inn motel and U.S. 52 near New Richmond also provided backdrops during filming in March-April 2014. If the Golden Globes or Academy Awards had a category for Best Supporting City, certainly Cincinnati would get a nomination.
Some local moviegoers will recognize a few performers: Kevin Crowley as Carol’s lawyer Fred Haymes; former WLWT-TV “Midday” anchor Ann Reskin as Florence, the Aird's housekeeper; and Reskin's husband Ken Strunk as a bartender.
As great as it is to see Cincinnati faces and places, the story is even better.
Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel, “The Price of Salt,” Haynes portrays a convincing reality of a bygone area filled with flash bulbs, phonographs, pay phones and photo processing darkrooms.
His mesmerizing love story slowly unfolds between the older woman with a past lesbian relationship with Abbey (Sarah Paulson, “American Horror Story”), and the twentysomething Belivet, whose boyfriend (Jake Lacey, “The Office”) wants to get married and move to France.
As expected, the Esquire Theatre audience cheered at the conclusion of the movie Saturday.
“Carol” definitely merits all the hype. Cincinnati hasn’t created this much buzz during the movie awards season since “Rain Main,” which won four Academy Awards (including best picture) in 1989. “Rain Man” put Cincinnati on Hollywood’s map, and began a Golden Age of Cincinnati Movies which lasted about 10 years.
“Carol” could do the same, as long as Ohio gives motion picture tax credits. Next to arrive in theaters will be Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead,” the film about jazz great Miles Davis shot here last summer. It's scheduled to open April 1.
Already in the pipeline are “Kind Of A Murder” (formerly “The Blunderer”) with Jessica Biel filmed here last fall; and three shot here this year, “Marauders” with Bruce Willis, Christopher Meloni and Andrian Grenier;, “Goat” with Nick Jonas and Virginia Gardner; and "Tiger" filmed last month in Hamilton starring Mickey Rourke.
They owe a debt of gratitude to “Carol,” the new queen of the Queen City.
(Kristen Erwin Schlotman, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission, will talk about "Carol" and other Cincinnati movies on "Cincinnati Edition" 1 p.m. Tuesday on 91.7 WVXU-FM.)