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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 32.73%
Just Average: 4.55%
Pretty Crappy: 7.27%
Sucks: 3.64%

9 reviews, 56 user ratings

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Far from Heaven
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by Zesty Mama

"This movie reminded me of what film making is capable of."
5 stars

It's this simple. If Far From Heaven doesn't receive a slew of 2003 Oscar nominations, there is no justice. Far From Heaven is a film that is both comforting and disquieting in its mastery. Set in the impenetrably perfect world of 1950’s America, Todd Haynes has rendered an engaging portrait of the heart wrenching events that can occur beneath the façade of conformity.

It is a film that sears the psyche because it appeals to so many of the viewer’s baser traits. There is a part of us, politically incorrect as it may be, that at times wants a world bereft of conflict, that wants everyone to look, act and think like us. But deep down, we know that a carbon copy world is ultimately stifling. Once the standard is set, no quarter will be given when all does not go as planned.

This is the predicament that Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) finds herself in when her picture perfect world begins to collapse around her in Hartford, Connecticut circa 1957. Her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) is having a heterosexual breakdown. He can’t keep up appearances anymore and pretend to be something he’s not. In addition, Cathy has found a soul mate and confidant in the family’s gardener. Trouble is, the local town folk don’t think a white woman’s soul mate should be a black man.

Suddenly, being the perfect wife and mother to everyone else isn’t enough when Cathy’s most fundamental need for real love can’t be met. The world that once gave her all she could want has now become an unforgiving dictator.

But what prevents Far From Heaven from being just another “woman in crisis” movie is the fact that the devastating events of Cathy’s life take place within the confines of a film as rigidly stylized as the society it critiques. The film is a direct imitation of the “women’s melodrama” films of Douglas Sirk.

Sirk fled Nazi Germany only to encounter an America fully entrenched in its own hypocrisy. Unlike the Nazi’s who openly killed off anyone who didn’t meet their social doctrine, American society simply ignored and marginalized them while presenting a unified front to the world.

In short, 1950’s America was just fine if you were white, male, Christian and rich. It was under the guise of “weepers” that Sirk held up a mirror to his audience, showing the toll taken on those whose only crime was being different.

It is this tribute to Sirk’s style that makes the oppression of Cathy’s world all the more palpable. The movie opens with sweeping diagonal credits. The score soars and lilts as events dictate. The cars are brightly colored and rust free. The streets are immaculate and are populated by people with impeccably matched outfits and crisp hats. Kids say “Aw shucks.” and mean it.

Nobody, including Cathy has a hair out of place. Meanwhile, all Hell is breaking loose.

This is where Julianne Moore’s acting really shines. Rarely have I seen a portrayal of a character that is so inaccessible and sympathetic at the same time. Here is a character whose life is hard for anybody, never mind a modern woman to relate to, and yet you completely understand her pain, her hollowness. This is particularly evident in the scenes between Cathy and her gardener Raymond (Dennis Haysbert). These two actors have more chemistry than an atom bomb; yet they only get as far as dancing together.

But perhaps the greatest revelation in Far From Heaven is Dennis Quaid. Here’s an actor as macho as they come, completely believable as a tortured and closeted homosexual whose torn between love for his family and actually being in love for the first time.

What Far From Heaven most palpably illustrates, is that no one is immune to living. There’s a certain perception in the post 1950’s generation that life was somehow easier then, perhaps because our only exposure to it is through the picture perfect movies of the era. On the other hand, our present day world is one where grace and tact are sorely lacking and everyone’s dirty laundry is just a talk show guest spot away. But hey, unlike Cathy, we at least have some room to maneuver.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6299&reviewer=309
originally posted: 11/08/02 14:26:11
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/04/15 David Hollingsworth Amazing film! 5 stars
7/31/08 Ramone Haynes' academic approach doesn't neglect real emotion here 5 stars
6/20/07 fools♫gold Almost as SHOCKINGLY flawless as "Yes." 5 stars
5/31/07 Anton Though the story was a bit flat, Julianne gives another incredible performance. 5 stars
12/27/06 Rob H Felt like an academic exercise or parody. Could not get into it. 2 stars
10/26/06 Matt H. Flawless cinematography, really amazing, however I do believe the story was a bit flat. 4 stars
8/16/06 anthonyuk when will the oscars recognize julianne moore as one of the best ever 5 stars
1/02/06 Daveman Hammy, even by melodrama standards. 2 stars
6/01/05 JFK great actings, great plot. Bad ending 4 stars
12/11/04 Charlene Javier Julianne Moore was robbed! 5 stars
9/25/04 NJ Cup Winner 95-00-03 Not as good as I had hoped, tho I respect Moore & Dennis a lot 4 stars
10/04/03 Darryl Seen all this before. Just maybe not in 1957 Hartford. Nothing special. J. Moore is good. 3 stars
10/01/03 Jinnvisible People have Gay and Interracial love problems-- YES WE KNOW-beautifull photography though 4 stars
9/11/03 filmfatale Excellent and riveting movie - Julianne did a great job! 5 stars
8/27/03 Chris The film's not perfect but very good none the less. The actors were all excellent. 4 stars
8/14/03 Ayla much better than expected 4 stars
7/24/03 Léo parent I LOVE THIS MOVIE I THINK IT,A GREAT MOVIE 5 stars
6/02/03 brentley The acting, the cinematography, the set design, everything - was all top notch. 5 stars
5/30/03 Jack Sommersby Familiar ideas directed and performed with flair and power. A wonderful film. 4 stars
5/25/03 Gil Carlson Hopelessly over rated and highly improbable 2 stars
5/11/03 Artist Freak Not as aweomse as I thought it would be. Nice cinematography tho. 4 stars
4/19/03 Boo Splendid 5 stars
4/05/03 gay man who's sirk 5 stars
3/22/03 Kyle Not bad. Didn't meet my expectations, though... 3 stars
3/19/03 regy A quiet gem of a movie. 5 stars
3/04/03 James Renwick Touching and moving motion picture. Society is still like in som many ways 4 stars
2/21/03 Jim the movie geek Slow and unreal in parts, but some powerful bits. 4 stars
2/13/03 Andrew Carden Excellent film, with great performances. Kudos To Julianne Moore 5 stars
2/12/03 Joe Tackled these subjects poorly, go rent a Sirk film instead 1 stars
2/12/03 kz Cinema at its Best 5 stars
2/12/03 alien assassin If you don't like this, dust off your collection of "happy days" videos. 5 stars
1/10/03 Goofy Maxwell *sniff* The style is just so beautiful. *sniff* Disillusionment is oh so painful. 5 stars
12/31/02 Mitchell Morris It's not a movie, it's something better—a "picture." 5 stars
12/25/02 Marshall Among the 21st century's first classic films. 5 stars
12/25/02 gg excellent but a bit overstated; technical mastery of late 1950's look is worth going for. 4 stars
12/23/02 Donna Horrendous propoganda in which no character is remotely close to the 50's. 1 stars
12/23/02 anna an incredibly artistic piece of work 5 stars
12/22/02 laura This film is so heavy handed and lacking in subtlety, it's offensive. I'm shocked as well. 2 stars
12/21/02 take1 Very enjoyable 5 stars
12/21/02 RS This could and should have been a good film. It wasn't. 1 stars
12/18/02 geekLove disturbed. Not a good date movie = the husband (me) turns gay, wife (date) loves gardener. 3 stars
12/17/02 steve interesting film for those that love "film," but honestly, it left me feeling cold. 3 stars
12/16/02 Cory Phaeus Moore and Quaid's "acting" is so patently phony, I am astounded the "critics" loved them. 1 stars
12/16/02 This Charming Man perfect period piece - excellent acting 5 stars
12/16/02 Stephen Essential viewing 5 stars
12/15/02 john Score detracts, attempts at saluting sirk distracts, story is weak 2 stars
12/14/02 Mike G Julianne Moore's acting and the set design is amazing! 5 stars
12/10/02 renegade mike the struggle to achieve in atmosphere got in the way of a really compelling story 2 stars
12/09/02 AgainstTheGrain This movie was an academic exercise. Save money, rent a Douglas Sirk movie! 2 stars
12/08/02 Flora P. Re establishes racial boundaries, Negro as spiritual help for troubled white woman 2 stars
12/07/02 David Hogan Stunning in every respect, and a movie that makes me understand why I love movies. 5 stars
12/06/02 Suzz beautiful looking film; fine performances; but flat and uninvolving 3 stars
11/25/02 marzio arigoni@rtsi.ch What a nice surprise: good film, superb cinematography, Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid sim 5 stars
11/20/02 Kenmeister Well-made, well -acted melodrama. The only part that rings false is Raymond. 4 stars
11/09/02 Ariya Best film of the year 5 stars
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  08-Nov-2002 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Apr-2003



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