Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven, a homage to the 1950s melodramas of Douglas Sirk, is an exquisitely crafted film of beauty and grace. The world that Haynes creates is so meticulously detailed that one almost forgets that the movie isn't fifty years old.Julianne Moore deserves an Academy Award for her portrayal of Cathy Whitaker, a homemaker whose idyllic life begins to disintegrate when she learns that her husband is gay. Moore's Cathy is a delicate woman who would like to be courageous, but can't be because of the world that she is trapped in. As her innocence begins to die, <more>
she realizes how empty and superficial her life is. When she begins a cautious romance with her black gardener Dennis Haysbert she begins to see the racism and hypocrisy that forms the underbelly of a seemingly perfect world. At the end of the film Cathy has no illusions, and realizes that the life that she thought was perfect is actually a never-ending hell.Dennis Quaid is equally stunning as Cathy's tortured husband Frank. After Cathy discovers his homosexuality, the two are forced to grapple with a truth that neither of them can comprehend. Frank goes to a doctor for "treatment," and his confession is heartbreaking. He says that he "can't let this thing, this sickness, destroy my life. I'm going to beat this thing." We look at Frank and pity him because we realize that such a feat is impossible, and unnecessary, but Frank does not possess that knowledge. Frank begins to drink more, and when he finally breaks down and tells Cathy that he has fallen in love with another man, all of the anger, shame, and joy comes pouring out of him all at once. It is a supremely moving moment, and the best performance of Quaid has ever given.As the marriage between Cathy and Frank begins to unravel, the two also begin to fight. All of Cathy and Frank's arguments and confessions take place at night, bathed in shadows. The truth has no place in this bright, artificial world, and it must stay hidden at all costs. One night, when Frank tries to make love to Cathy and can't, Cathy tries to placate him, saying that he is "all man" to her. At that remark Frank hits her, and for a moment the audience does not breathe. Cathy then asks quietly for her husband to get her some ice. Cathy is all restraints, and it is only with her kind gardener that she has a chance to break free. The scenes between Moore and Haysbert crackle with erotic energy because everything remains unsaid. When Cathy finally asks him to dance with her, it is a moment when we realize what human beings are capable of being together. The fourth example of stellar acting comes from Patricia Clarkson as Cathy's best friend Eleanor. Eleanor is a bitter, gossipy, cold-hearted woman, and when she tells Cathy "I am your best friend," you want to scream to Cathy not to believe her. Clarkson makes the most of her rather limited screen time, and turns in a fascinatingly layered performance.Far From Heaven may very well be the best picture of the year. In creating an artificial world, Todd Haynes has managed to lay bare the human soul in a way that has never been done before. It is a moving and important motion picture, populated with some of the most nuanced acting I have ever seen. Cathy and Frank Whitiker may be far from heaven, but the film comes about as close to heaven as is possible.
Underneath the Facade of Complacency (by nycritic)
Had it been released in the year it's set in -- 1957 -- FAR FROM HEAVEN would have broken grounds on several different levels because it brings to light what stories then only hinted at. Todd Haynes, channeling Douglas Sirk inch by inch, goes one step further and comes up with a masterpiece of domestic melodrama.This is the story of three people caught in unfortunate circumstances. The Whitakers, Cathy and Frank Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid , are the Perfect Couple, married and living under the conservative spotlight of Suburbia, known more as Mr. and Mrs. Magnatech, successful -- the <more>
couple who have everything going for them. Of course, with the slight detail that Mr. Whitaker is gay and about to come out.Coming into the picture at the time the local society writer Celia Weston comes to interview Cathy about their idealistic marriage life, Raymond Deagan Dennis Haysbert enters the picture. A quiet man who happens to be black in a time when being black meant being segregated, Cathy expresses kindness to him, and the writer jots down 'friend to Negros' which comes to mark Cathy later on.Frank's double life is the catalyst which will bring Cathy and Raymond together. When Cathy, in her manicured, wifely way, comes to bring Frank his dinner at work, she walks in to seeing him kissing another man Matt Malloy . Clearly, something is wrong in this picture... and gets progressively so when Frank decides to beat his illness, while still going to sordid bars with equally ashamed men who hang out with the spectre of fear just out of frame, as if one of the many bar raids would befall them at any moment.Once Frank is out of the picture Cathy turns to Raymond for solace. Friends begin talking, mainly through the correctly named Eleanor Fine a chilling Patricia Clarkson who doesn't know how to react to this friendship, while we know she is probably spinning stories behind Cathy's back. It is here when the morals of the time come into play. We are, in fact, reminded that this is the late fifties at every turn. Cathy has been 'seen' with a Negro and this means trouble. Frank, even though he already has a boyfriend, can't stand her friendship. Raymond's daughter gets assaulted by a couple of boys coming home from school. Doors are closing all around Cathy, but there is the hope she may leave with him to Baltimore. Raymond assures her, that is impossible.The Douglas Sirk influence virtually comes out of the screen at every frame in Todd Haynes film. From the saturated color and excellent cinematography, set decoration, to the almost exact acting from all the leads and supporting actors and its pessimistic/happy ending. Where many movies fail through anachronisms, an almost perfect attention to detail has been taken to make this movie as authentic as possible -- down to the cinematic language and its characters, who are enclosed in its time period. For example, in one scene, Frank swears... but then apologizes, because it is impolite to do so. His gayness even as the film reaches its conclusion remains closeted, within its shame, as he secretly meets with his boyfriend. No happy ending for him here. Neither for Cathy and Raymond, whose acquaintance is vibrant with tension even though they barely exchange a shy kiss and are destined to remain apart. It reminded me a little of IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE 2000 , another film enclosed in its time period with the two romantic leads knowing their chances of a relationship is nil due to tradition. Here it's man's bigotry to himself.
A Triumph...fifty years too late (by LordBlacklist)
Far From Heaven is one of those movies that lends validity to the saying that film is an art form. It is a film that just refuses to leave your thoughts for days after having seen it. Moore plays your typical 50's neglected housewife with so much energy and grace that it is very easy to forget that she is acting, or that this is just a piece of cinema. Her mannerisms, facial expressions, and tone of voice all feel exactly within the period. This film does have quite an effect on anyone intelligent enough to appreciate it. The look, feel, and mood of a 50's era film is wholly <more>
recaptured to tell a story that would never have been told if this film was to be made at that time. Censors, congress, and that damned Catholic Church would never allow a film like this to be made at the time. Heaven forbid that a film portray gays, blacks, and women as real three dimensional human beings. Everything about it down to the last detail has been so meticulously thought out that suspension of disbelief is never a problem unlike some other films that came out around the same time ::cough:: Chicago ::cough::. It would not be going to far to say that this is one of the greatest films ever made, but the most interesting thing is that it was made at all.
A man and his wife enter the office of a man who could possibly save the man from a life threatening illness. THe process includes many visits with a psychiatrist and possibly some electro-shock therapy. No, this person does not have schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. This man is a homosexual.Yes, it is true, this man is considered "sick" but that is just one of the many skewed attitudes of the 1950's that director Todd Haynes brings to light in Far From Heaven. Julianne Moore plays Cathy Whitaker, the wife of Frank Whitaker, Dennis Quaid, who are the proud parents <more>
of two children. The live the life that people envied. A nice home, money, success, and happiness. All of that comes crashing down when Cathy discovers her husband is not who he really is.Cathy goes to Frank's work to drop off some dinner only to discover that her husband is in the arms of another man. Frank says that he is "sick" and wants treatment. Cathy, the "super wife" is behind him 100 percent, as if he really had an illness to beat. Frnak is ashamed and doesn't want support, just some privacy while he goes through session after session of therapy to try and make him "normal".To add to this difficulty, the family gardener passes away and his son Raymond, Dennis Haysbert, takes over. Cathy comes to confide in Raymond and find peace of mind in his attitude and his overall good nature. The neighborhood looks down on their friendship and casts a shadow on the household. Raymond, a black man, is much like Cathy, seeing not color, but people. Even in New Haven, Connecticut, the feeling of white superiority still runs through the veins of its inhabitants.The movie from start to finish is wonderful. It is a roller-coaster of emotions. Moore, Quaid, and Haysbert give fantastic performances. Even Patricia Clarkson, who plays Cathy one true friend in the neighborhood gives a delightful performance.It's not just the acting that gives this movie it's lift off of the ground. Haynes direction and the art direction of the film create a pallet of colors and emotions that set the mood for each seen. The film opens in autumn. The leaves are shades of red, yellow, and orange, a true autumnal foliage like you would see on a Vermont postcard. The clothing is a perfect time capsule of the 50's. Haynes also uses a lot of colored lights to directly influence the mood of a scene. The green neon light of the gay bar Frank enters gives a strange feel like an alien world. The blue light that comes in through the windows in his office at night and in their home after a party means something dramatic is taking place.Elmer Bernstein has racked up 14 nominations for his music, including a win for Throughly Modern Millie. His score for this film is the current that pushes the story along. Like so many great composers, he doesn't create music but a character. Everything is different with the right score to back up a great story.A story and a script that Haynes wrote so beautifully. He captured the lingo that kids used in the 50's and gave us a look at how kind people can be and how despicable some are.The issues that Haynes tackles in the film are still around today, just not taken so seriously. It is hard to think that only 50 years ago, homosexuals were looked at as sick people and the African-American community was still not welcome. To this day there are still hints of this feeling around the country, but most is left to be talked about in the privacy of our own homes.Whether or not you are straight or gay, black or white, democrat or republican, we all are people. Haynes shows that even if two people are in harmony, it is the outside influences that can rip them apart. Hatred and tolerance cannot coexist.
Beautifully well made film is unforgettable thanks to rich performances. (by hu675)
Cathy Whitaker Julianne Moore has it all, a handsome husband Dennis Quaid , Two wonderful children Ryan Ward & Lindsay Andretta , a loyal housekeeper Viola Davis and her close best friend Patricia Clarkson . Everything for Cathy goes well until her husband starts questions his own sexually. Things are slowly changing for Cathy, when she meets her new gardener Dennis Haysbert . Which her Gardener is a nice, caring African American man. Cathy's wonderful life is only an illusion and she forced to live a lie or following her heart.Written and Directed by Todd Haynes Poison, <more>
Safe, Velvet Goldmine made an genuinely well done melodrama with plenty of style and substance. Moore gives an beautiful, touching performance. Quaid in his best performance yet, which he's outstanding. Haysbert is terrific as Cathy's Gardener. Excellent production designs, lush cinematography and an beautiful music score are the highlight of this film.DVD has an sharp anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 transfer and an fine DTS 5.1 Surround Sound Also in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound . DVD has an featurette, a half-hour "Anatomy of a Scene", an featurette with Julianne Moore & the Director and more. This film was nominated for four Oscars including Best Actress, Best Original Score by the late Elmer Bernstein Bringing Out the Dead, The Maginificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird , Best Cinematography by Edward Lachman Less Than Zero, Selena, The Virgin Suicides and Best Original Screenplay. This film is a must-see. This film is a loving tribute to the 1950's melodrama films. Executive Produced by Steven Soderbergh Ocean's Eleven-2001, Out of Sight, Solaris-2002 and George Clooney Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night and Good Luck, Insomnia-2002 . **** ½/***** .
A Great Melodrama in a Conservative and Racist Society (by claudio_carvalho)
In 1957, the Whitaker are the classic American family: Frank Whitaker Dennis Quaid is the beloved successful provider husband and Cathy Whitaker Julianne Moore is the perfect mother and housewife. They have beautiful and obedient son and daughter and live in a lovely house in the Connecticut suburb. Everything works perfectly in the breast of the family, until the night when Cathy decides to take a meal to her husband, who is working in overtime in the office. A terrible secret is disclosed, affecting deeply the life of Cathy. This movie is a beautiful and dramatic romance in a <more>
conservative and racist American society in the 50s. The remarkable performance of the always magnificent Julianne Moore, very well supported by the excellent Dennis Quaid and Dennis Haysbert, and having a sharp direction and a wonderful photography in a marvelous reconstitution of a period make this movie outstandingly good. My vote is nine.Title Brazil : `Longe do Paraíso' `Far From Heaven'
This exquisite film captures the Sirk mood to perfection from the moment the first pristine images hit the screen. (by khanbaliq2)
A wife Julianne Moore in a wealthy Connecticut suburb in 1957 discovers her husband Dennis Quaid is homosexual. Secretly, she embarks on a relationship with her black gardener Dennis Haysbert . In the Fourth Annual Village Voice Film Critics' Poll, the film was voted the best picture of 2002.A devastatingly clever device: director Todd Haynes has shot the story in the lush colours and style of a melodramatic Douglas Sirk 'women's picture'. But all the grace notes in such films are ushered centre stage, and it becomes an acutely observed study of racial and sexual bigotry <more>
in 1950s America. Far From Heaven is a beautifully made, brilliantly thought through and genuinely moving piece of work.
I don't know if this film has anything all that useful or original to say. We know, or at the very least we've heard that 1950s folks didn't much care for homosexuals and black people. Todd Haynes is certainly not taking any brave new stands in this film. It's a tribute to Sirk, who would never overtly deal with these exact same subjects. But he did make a good study of racial attitudes in Imitation of Life in 1959, so he was no coward. Fortunately, Far From Heaven does manage to work itself up to something quite worthwhile. The film is subtle in the same way as Sirk's <more>
were: throwing florid melodrama in your face while secretly depicting the truth under that cloud. Haynes probably wouldn't have succeeded half as well as he did if he weren't working with Julianne Moore and, to a slightly lesser extent, Dennis Quaid. Moore has been a powerhouse actress for more than a decade now, and this could be her strongest performance yet. I might prefer her in Boogie Nights slightly, but this is close. She's great as a sheltered 1950s housewife coming out of her protective shell. Her husband Quaid has been fighting his homosexual lust his whole life, and he's beginning to lose the battle. Rejected, Moore befriends her gardener, an educated black man Dennis Haysbert . It's not love, at least right away. Moore is just enthused to have found someone outside of her own world who understands her and will talk with her in an honest manner. The color cinematography, set design, and costume design are full of transcendent Sirk-influenced colors. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the film is the musical score, by Elmer Bernstein. It would be a shame to see it go without an Academy Award nomination. 8/10.
In the mid fifties, Douglas Sirk's melodramas were dismissed as being nothing but fantastical Hollywood soap operas. In the sixties and seventies, however, critics and filmmakers began to view his films differently. Sirk became, not a hack purveyor of cheesy drama, but a progressive artist working within the Hollywood system, his films now taken as an assault on 50s bourgeois and patriarchy.In the late seventies, things changed again. Pauline Kael described his films as a critique of the "unconscious sexual dynamics of a patriarchal culture". Then in the early eighties, <more>
feminists praised Sirk for "revealing the film industry's gender machinations" and "smuggling in homosexuality for the purposes of critiquing patriarchy". Finally, the 90s saw a reappraisal of Sirk as the "epitome of camp", provoking both progressive and homophobic responses due to the new knowledge of Rock Hudson's homosexuality.Todd Haynes, in his film "Far from Heaven", continues this revisionism. He takes Sirk's "All that Heaven Allows" and treats it as a serious social and sexual critique. He then re-imagines it, using the techniques and conventions of a 50's drama, but the moral sensibilities of a modern filmmaker.Haynes' film is about Cathy Whitaker Julianne Moore , a well to do housewife who lives in the suburban town of Hartford. But all is not well. Gradually Cathy's world falls apart as she discovers that her husband Dennis Quaid is a homosexual. As Cathy falls out of love with her husband, she falls in love with a black landscaper much to the shock of her friends and townsfolk . The film ends on a sad note, with Cathy unable to live with either her black lover or homosexual husband.Sirk's film "All that Heaven Allows" , flows along similar lines, the difference being that his is about a housewife who is rejected by her gossipy country-club peers because she falls in love with a lower class gardener played by the homosexual Rock Hudson .So what Haynes has done is to essentially incorporate themes that would have otherwise been too risqué for 1950's cinema, into his own film. The non existent husband in Sirk's film, becomes a homosexual in Haynes' update. Likewise, the down-to-earth gardener of "All That Heaven Allows", becomes a Negro landscaper in "Far From Heaven".But what's surprising is that Hyanes, a homosexual himself, does not identify with the Dennis Quaid character. Instead he sympathises with Cathy. Hayes goes to great lengths to romanticise Cathy's Negro lover, portraying him as a clean cut and gentlemanly fellow who dutifully cares for his only daughter, and yet treats homosexuality as being vile and destructive. Cathy's husband cheats on her, visits seedy clubs, has casual sex with young strangers and is physically abusive to her. Why would Haynes, a homosexual himself, portray gays in this light yet romanticise blacks? What Haynes seems to have done is, by showing how morally regressed the 50s were, highlighted exactly how these standards remain the same today. While "Far From Heaven" uses its modern eyes to delve into the life of a black man, it holds back when treating homosexuality. It fears to empathise with a gay man. These fears are perhaps meant to be taken ironically. IE- blacks are no longer marginalised, but gays still are.8/10 - This is a very difficult film to rate. On a visual level, it's spectacular. The cinematography, intricate colour schemes, beautiful costumes...it's arguably one of the most handsomely shot film of its decade. The acting and drama are also very riveting. Haynes tells his story in broad brush strokes and flawlessly recreates the style and tone of a 1950's melodrama.Problems arise when we try to get to the core of what the film means. What exactly is Haynes trying to do? Taken at face value, the film says nothing much: blacks and gays are marginalised and exist on the outskirts of society. Okay, so he's updated Sirk by having his housewife confront, not class, but race and sex. He's also added another layer, implying that homosexuality is now still a fringe issue.BUT, whilst he raises these points, Haynes fails to illuminate or delve deeper into any of these issues. This is unpardonable. You'd expect a homosexual artist to provide some personal insight into homosexuality. Instead it's just campy irony. It works, you just wish for something more substantial.Haynes' last three films, "Far From Heaven", "Velvet Goldmine" and "I'm Not There" all have the same flaws. They're all wrapped up in their own postmodernism. They're copies of copies, freed from the limitations of the past. Unlike his early film, "Safe", they don't seem to want to delve into any sort of truth.Anyway, this is some kind of great film, working more as a lush exercise in style than any kind of social critique.Worth 2 viewings.