Far From Heaven (2002)


Was Allstate Insurance around in the 50’s?

Cathy (Julianne Moore) is the perfect 50s housewife, living the perfect 50s life: healthy kids, successful husband and social prominence. Then one night she discovers her husband Frank’s (Dennis Quaid) infidelity and her tidy world starts spinning out of control. In her confusion and grief, she finds consolation in the friendship of their African-American gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert) – a socially taboo relationship that leads to the further disintegration of life as she knew it.

Writer/director Todd Haynes does something very strange with this flick that I don’t think I have seen done before ever. He takes what is the style of a 1950’s film and puts themes and conversations that would only be talked about in film’s today. It’s sort of like a confusing combination between two different time-periods but I have to say he makes it work.

This is definitely Haynes’ film right from the get-go as almost everything here is meshed-out perfectly and completley with style. Everything here fits the look of the 50’s with all of the bright colors that take over every scene and seem to pop right out at us, the costumes look real instead of making it seem like these famous people are just dressing up for Halloween, and the cinematography captures some real pretty shots that add so much more to this flick and give it this feel of beauty. The score is also done very well, almost a little too well as it constantly comes into scenes with a soaring sound, but that’s pretty much done on purpose. Haynes has a style here and he keeps to it which makes this one of those films that even a deaf person can enjoy since every shot just oozes beauty.

The screenplay, that was also written by Haynes, is very well-structured in a different way. This is very much a film that shows people in the 50’s talking about social taboos during the 50’s but still being able to talk like as if they were living in this time-period. Everybody is so corny and says such things as “aww shucks” or “gee golly” but then when they start talking about such topics as racism and homosexuality then the film gets a little edgy but in a good way and not over-exploitative. There’s a good story here as well and as it goes on, you start to feel more and more for this woman even though it may be a little hard to relate to her considering not many out there have to deal with a gay husband.

Even though the script is well-structured, there were still moments where it had its big faults. The whole racism subject is touched upon gently when it’s just Cathy and Raymond talking but when it comes to the other people and how they respond to it, well that’s where the film seems a little too over-dramatic. The scenes where other people see them together have this score music that almost makes it seem like the shower scene from ‘Psycho’ or any other horror flick to give it this hyper-charged feel. Not only was this a problem but even the scenes where we see the differences between black and white people from Hartford seem way too different to even be considered in the same film. The black scenes seem a little too modern as if they were filmed in a completley different place than the rest of the film was located and it seemed like too much of a fault to let go.

Still, this film definitely depends upon its lead performance from Julianne Moore, and she does not let it down. Moore is an actress who I think always seems to play the same type of gal in every film but she’s very good here as this very simple, nice, and sweet lady who starts to see her world crumble down. She’s curious, sad, confused, but most of all, real and that’s the type of genuine feelings I got from Moore’s performance here as Cathy. Dennis Quaid is amazing as her husband, Frank, and he gives off one of the better dramatic performances of a confused guy that I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s a real wonder as to why Quaid doesn’t do more dramas because he’s really good here.

Dennis Haysbert plays Raymond with a great deal of subtlety and restraint to give you this feel that he is totally nice dude and would never ever hurt a fly. We always see this guy in those Allstate commercials (see the pun up top) but with this performance here and as the daddy in ‘Love & Basketball’, he shows why he can really pull out some great dramatic chops with a voice that almost has Morgan Freeman running for his money. It’s also pretty funny to see Viola Davis play a role here as the nanny, Sybil, a role she would still be playing all these years later but actually getting nominated for it in ‘The Help’.

Consensus: Far From Heaven is a film that perfectly matches the style of films from the 50’s, with a great story that touches on the life-styles of the times, and performances from just about everybody involved that make this an emotional and heart-felt story, even if it seems a bit over-dramatic.

8/10=Matinee!!

8 comments

  1. Thank you Dan! Been trying to remember this movie’s title foir weeks since the plot was brought up in a coffee group. I’ve already added a link to your blog at the bottom of mine. I’ll FB my friend and list your site on his wall.

  2. This is so funny, I actually watched this movie yesterday, and was again completely taken with the world Haynes immerses us in. The colors, the style, the costumes, the acting, – everything spot on and utterly perfect. Love everything abut Far From Heaven. Lovely review Dan!

  3. The melodrama of that film is part of what Haynes wanted since the film is in part a tribute to the works of Douglas Sirk. It’s definitely Haynes’ most accessible film of his career.

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