Far From Heaven

"Excellent"

Far From Heaven Review


An extraordinary homage to, and deconstruction of, Douglas Sirk's melodramas of the 1950s, "Far from Heaven" is a layer cake of potent emotion, puritanical taboo, composed anguish, and forbidden affections festering below the idealistic facade of an Eisenhower-era New England family.

Operating on three levels at once while giving each a rich, resonant texture, writer-director Todd Haynes ("Safe," "Velvet Goldmine") ensnares the audience in the idyllic Technicolor fiction of the period in which it takes place -- right down to the sweeping, cursive title credits so corny they get a laugh. He plumbs the highly sensitive, highly secretive true hearts of his characters, who desperately try to plaster over cracks in the perfect-family facade as their lives unravel. But at the same time he discredits the halcyon image of a time that demanded such concealment by exposing its rampant, acute discrimination and its all-consuming importance of keeping up appearances.

Julianne Moore gives an intense, captivating, flawless performance as Cathy Whitaker, a consummate '50s housewife with a seemingly perfect husband named Frank (Dennis Quaid) who is a sales executive for a line of televisions, and two obedient children who never need scolding for infractions any worse than saying "Aw, jeez!" when told it's time for bed.

She's been profiled in the newspaper society pages. She is always perfectly coifed and immaculately dressed in pretty, petticoated Dior knock-offs with small waists and capped sleeves. And from time to time she and her housewife neighbors secretly nurse daiquiris in her kitchen while gossiping ("She's been liberal ever since she played summer stock with all those seamy Jewish boys," one sniffs disapprovingly about an acquaintance) and tittering in whispers about sex ("Once a week? You get off easy!").

But Cathy's superlatively ordered world comes crashing down around her when she's inspired to take her late-working husband his dinner at the office one night, only to walk in on him kissing another man. With Frank's tortured feelings about his homosexuality driving him to drink, and with no one safe to confide in (her girlfriends would shun her if they knew), Cathy becomes drawn to the tender understanding of her gardner (Dennis Haysbert), with whom she dare not be seen in public, not only because he's not her husband and he's not of her social class, but especially because he's black.

"Far from Heaven" is ingrained with the spirit and the trappings of its inspirations (films like Sirk's "All the Heaven Allows" and "Imitation of Life"). Its homes and costumes (by the brilliant Sandy Powell) are immaculate, and it's always a perfect autumn day full of vivid colors and chirping birds on its often unmistakably soundstage sets. But more importantly "Heaven" taps the very souls of every overly succulent character so effectively you can feel the melodramatic weight of these events as if you were trapped in their artificially genteel lives right alongside them.

Looking every inch the clip-art image of a '50s businessman, Quaid gives a powerful, compelling performance of Frank's anguish over the desires he's tried desperately to deny for years. "I know it's a sickness," he cries to Cathy in a gut-wrenching confession, "because it makes me feel despicable." But even as he seeks psychological and medical "treatment," and reconciliation with his wife, Frank is torn apart, finally reaching a breaking point that turns the tide of the movie.

Sonorous, soft-spoken Haysbert (President Palmer on Fox's serial thriller "24") is perfectly cast as Raymond the gardner, a single father with a love of modern art and a business degree he has been unable to put to use because of his position in society. As his relationship with Cathy evolves into an unspoken romance that can never be consummated, they risk brief and seemingly innocuous public rendezvous that bring the thinly veiled wrath of both their communities.

And through it all Moore portrays poignantly, and without a touch of the irony that lurks in the dark corners of the film, Cathy's desperate, needful clinging to her illusions of a Ladies' Home Journal life.

"Far from Heaven" is a masterful marriage of the immaculate, if precarious, image of blissful post-War Americana with the authentic, imperfect humanity and the malignant subterfuge that always lay beneath it. That Haynes can both maintain and dismantle the facades that his genre and his characters construct is a wonderous accomplishment of veracity and narrative grace, so effectively and emotionally enveloping that this picture will almost certainly be one of the two or three best movies of 2002.



Far From Heaven

Facts and Figures

Run time: 107 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 12th March 2003

Box Office USA: $15.8M

Box Office Worldwide: $29M

Budget: $13.5M

Distributed by: USA Films

Production compaines: Clear Blue Sky Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 182 Rotten: 28

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Cathy Whitaker, as Frank Whitaker, as Raymond Deagan, as Eleanor Fine, as Sybil, as Dr. Bowman, as Stan Fine, as Mona Lauder, as Elderly Woman, Chance Kelly as Tallman

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.