Far From Heaven
Academy Award® Nominee
The prim and proper life of a 1950's housewife is shaken when she learns of her husband's secret life. As she finds comfort and friendship with her African-American gardener, she is faced with... View more >
mature thematic elements, sexual content, brief violence and language
Starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert... View more >
Nominated for an Academy AwardŽ for Best Actress (Julianne Moore), Best Music, Best Original Screenplay
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Too good to miss. Multiple Oscar nominations. A couple wins.
Writer and director Todd Haynes wastes no time placing the viewer in the time frame and culture of the film Far From Heaven. The title of the movie splashes across the screen as the orchestral music swells in a fashion reminiscent of the 1950s classics. A vintage automobile pulls into a beautiful suburban home driveway, and a young boy greets the driver calling, `Mother, Mother!' Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) steps out of the car dressed impeccably adding even more color to the rich autumnal scene and unloads the groceries with the help of her children and the maid.
But the picturesque era portrayed in so many films and television classics disappears as the plot reveals the complexity of lives lived in silence. Cathy laments that she and everyone around her endures endless secrecy with their `lives shut in the dark.' People feign normalcy in the light and exist in the shadows ashamed of thoughts and behaviors that defy the expectations of an idyllic society.
The film does not mock the 1950s cultural stereotype, but Haynes taints the perfection of this culture with issues that earlier filmmakers were forced to ignore. In the mid-twentieth century, excluding certain populations and disturbing situations kept studio executives and audience members safe from the truths and consequences of alternative and abusive lifestyles. Commercial films entertained people with trite plot lines and predictable events and outcomes. Commercial films did not show people what they did not want to see or believe.
Dennis Quade delivers a commendable performance as Frank Whitaker, a man who never loved his wife but settled for her hand refusing to accept his homosexual feelings. They built an ideal life together, but his absence at the evening family meal becomes habitual. One night he follows a group of men into a back alley bar, encounters an exclusively male cliental, and becomes a part of their secret. He betrays his wife and his reputation and desperately tries to cure himself of the `sickness' by visiting a doctor who performs `homosexual conversion.'
Cathy cringes at the word `homosexual,' but she follows societal norms no more than her husband and commits greater sins in the eyes of the townspeople when she publicly befriends her black gardener, Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert). Gossips destroy her reputation, her friendships are tested, and both parents' children suffer because of their parents' platonic relationship. Malice and hatred overthrow the world of courtesy and love. Secrets are no longer hidden behind smiles and superficiality, though nothing has been said and everything has been assumed.
Unknowledgeable audience members using twenty-first century film standards might criticize Haynes' script. The pace occasionally feels slow, and certain moments lack subtlety. Moore and Quade portray characters written with tremendous depth, but Haysbert's character frequently seems one-dimensional. But one must remember that this is a 1950s movie shot in the twenty-first century preserving the structure and style of a 1950s film. Every choice is purposeful and right for Haynes' concept.
Revealing an untold history of 1950s culture is paramount in Far From Heaven, but like the classics, it also entertains. The story contains drama, comedy, and even a little suspense. Haynes took a risk creating this film because most viewers cannot help but to approach this material with a twenty-first century mindset. People are not extremely shocked to see two men kissing or to witness a budding romance between a white woman and a black man; in today's culture this is elevating the ordinary to extraordinary. Viewers are, instead, horrified by the reactions of the townspeople and unable to empathize with men and women who revel in prejudice. Still, the risk pays off because the audience member is forced to reflect on the subject matter, which provides Haynes with a privilege that few of his predecessors who made these types of films enjoyed.
Todd Haynes wrote and directed this powerful drama about an ideal middle-class family, whose household is in turmoil when the father, played by Dennis Quaid, admitted of being gay. Julianne Moore who play a devolted housewife, fearing the lost of her husband, turns to a black gardener (Dennis Haysbert of "24") for strength. The film takes place in 1957 where being gay are next to non-existant and African-Americans are being treated like second class citzens.
Moore is the center of the film. She gave an great performance, great enough to get an Oscar nomination. After Quaid pushed her away, she developed a friendship with Haysbert which lead to her being blacklisted from her friends. Only her maid can clear up a confused situation.
"Far From Heaven" is one of the best movies on the 1950's. You'll walk away with a clear view of what the decade is all about.
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