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Far From Heaven (PG-13)
USA Films
Official Site
Director: Todd Haynes
Producers: Christine Vachon, Jody Patton
Written by: Todd Haynes
Cast: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson, Viola Davis, James Rebhorn

Rating: out of 5


Far From Heaven is a visual and stylistic masterpiece. Unfortunately, thatís all it is. It falls just shy of becoming the heart-wrenching drama it so desperately wants to be.

Moore plays Cathy Whitaker, a 1957 Connecticut housewife so perfect sheíd give June Cleaver a run for her money. Cathy and her successful husband, Frank (Quaid), have what seems to be the ideal life: a beautiful home, two adorable children, and the envy of all their neighbors. However, when Cathy visits her husband at work and catches him kissing another man, the walls of her perfect life come crashing down on her, brick by brick. As Cathyís marriage deteriorates, she finds solace in her friendship with Raymond Deagan (Haysbert), her African-American gardener. This socially unacceptable relationship spurs malicious gossip and further complicates Cathyís life.

Far From Heaven is visually stunning, thanks to the artful direction of Haynes, who succeeds in his goal to pay homage to the classic í50s melodramas of Douglas Sirk (Imitation of Life, All That Heaven Allows). Haynesís attention to detail is astounding. Everything from color to wardrobe to music is perfect from one frame to the next. The performances are equally wonderful. Moore is amazing as usual, and Quaid plays Frank flawlessly, displaying a surprising amount of range and emotion. Clarkson is also refreshing as Cathyís busybody friend, Eleanor.

The filmís only shortcomings lie in the story itself. Haynes tries to tackle two extremely complex subjects, homosexuality and interracial relationships, which become even more complicated when set against the backdrop of 1950s suburban America. Instead of focusing on one subject and exploring it fully, Haynes just barely scratches the surface of both issues. He puts Frankís story on the backburner in favor of pursuing the less compelling story of Cathy and Raymond. We only get glimpses of Frankís personal torture over his homosexuality and the repercussions it has on his family, which is unfortunate because those are some of the best scenes in the film. Furthermore, Moore and Haysbert donít even share enough screen time to make us believe that their friendship is all that deep. Deep enough, at least, for Cathy, a woman so concerned with appearances, to risk the public scrutiny and ridicule that would come from pursuing the relationship.

The weak development of each storyline makes it difficult to attain the level of emotional involvement that Haynes undoubtedly intended. In the end, Far From Heaven is entertaining and fun to look at, and the solid performances, alone, make it worthwhile.† Just donít go into it expecting too much, because youíll probably walk away disappointed.

óJennifer Mosley

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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