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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 robertrosado

"Everything is right in Todd Haynes's homage to 50's melodramas."
5 stars

Going into this film, I was not sure what to expect. I had heard that it was filmed in the style of a 1950s film, but I had no idea what would be done with the concept, and was afraid. Very afraid. It didn't help that the title splashes onto the screen in bold, pink cursive. I was nervous, and wasn't prepared for what was to follow. Two hours later, I had discovered the best film of 2002.

Cathy Whitaker is a happy housewife, living in the 1950s. Her husband is a successful business man, working for a prosperous company. She has two kids, and couldn't be happier. One night, she uncovers a secret that threatens her family. And in a time of racism, she soon finds herself in the arms of her black gardener.

The always-wonderful Julianne Moore ("Safe") delivers the best performance of her career as Cathy Whitaker. She brings earthiness and credible emotion to a role that, had Haynes cast the wrong actress, could have been overacted or cold. While the center of the story is a female, the male characters surrounding are just as strong. Dennis Quaid ("The Rookie") also delivers his best performance to date, giving the audience heartbreaking look at a man torn apart. Frank is a good husband and father who, over the course of the film, has to choose between the life he is leading, and the life he wants to lead, knowing full well that it would destroy the people he loves. Dennis Haysbert (TV's '24') is, for lack of a better term, beautiful as Raymond, the intelligent and sensitive black man who Cathy befriends. Eleanor Fine, Cathy's best friend, is more of a full-bodied character than stereotype, thanks to Patricia Clarkson's ("Pieces of April") layered and charming portrayal. Viola Davis ("Antwone Fisher") is solid as the Whitaker's loyal maid, Cybill.

When it comes to making films, Todd Haynes is a natural. His screenplay isn't so much dialogue, as it is pure poetry. In one scene, Raymond takes Cathy out to a lake, where she proceeds to tell him her philosophy on family and love: "That was the day I stopped believing in the wild ardor of things. Perhaps in love, as well. That kind of love. The love in books and films. The love that tells us to abandon our lives and plans, all for one brief touch of Venus".

What Haynes also accomplishes is a film that, while paying homage to a past genre, also brings modern topics, like homosexuality and racism, to the table. In the 1950s, these subjects were considered taboo and scandalous, and were muted in the medium of film. It is also startling to see old-fashioned sensibility on the aforementioned issues. When Cathy finds out that (spoiler) her husband is a homosexual, both her and Frank believe that a doctor and therapy can help "cure" him. Also, when Cathy and Raymond are seen walking about town, the whole town seems to find out within a coule of hours.

There are many elements that embellish the work of Haynes and his cast. For example, Sandy Powell's elegant costumes, Mark Friedberg's colorful production design, and Edward Lachmann's graceful cinematography, all of which are evocative of the cinema period. Most important is Elmer Bernstein's musical score. While composing in the style of the classic films, Bernstein comes up with something haunting and memorable.

Rarely before have I seen a film so rich in its ideas and so successful in its accomplishemts. While this project might have been disastrous in the hands of lesser talent, HEAVEN earns the tears of the audience with real sincerity and heart.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6299&reviewer=394
originally posted: 12/09/04 15:23:00
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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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