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.
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