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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 32.73%
Average: 4.55%
Pretty Bad: 7.27%
Total Crap: 3.64%

9 reviews, 56 user ratings

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Far from Heaven
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by Stephen Groenewegen

5 stars

Far From Heaven plays homage to Douglas Sirk’s 1950s women-driven melodramas (“Imitation of Imitation of Life”, as the Village Voice neatly put it). Director-writer Todd Haynes pays enormous attention to getting the look and feel right for the period (1957-58) - Edward Lachman’s autumnal cinematography, the score by veteran composer Elmer Bernstein, and the Life magazine costumes and production design are adroitly accurate.

Julianne Moore is Cathy Whitaker, a liberal-leaning socialite housewife whose middle class world is rocked to its core. First, she catches her solid-as-a-rock advertising-man husband Frank in the embrace of a man. Then she becomes the victim of the prejudice of the Connecticut citizenry when she naively befriends her black gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert).

The Hays Code isn’t around anymore to burden Haynes as it did Sirk. So Haynes can juxtapose the 1950s squeaky clean peachiness with gay men cruising and Raymond’s noble speeches on black rights. If the film has a flaw, it’s that Haysbert’s character is too good to be true: not just a small business owner but well-adjusted, tolerant single parent and expert on modern art to boot. He’s a reincarnation of Sidney Poitier’s 1960s gentleman persona that robbed films like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner of any bite.

Haynes has his cast play this material, ripe for parody, completely straight and the effect is emotionally wrenching. Moore and Quaid personify the 1950s theme of keeping up appearances and the strain that it causes. Frank, at least, by film’s end has found a way to avoid living a lie in private, although it means keeping his personal life concealed. It’s harder for Cathy and Raymond to hide their colour than it is for Frank to hide his sexuality. (White) men have greater power to slip between worlds to which they do not belong.

Despite how things first appear, Haynes isn’t celebrating this slick 1950s veneer. By picture’s end, he’s stripped it back to reveal the pain beneath. All the performances are fine, including Patricia Clarkson as Cathy’s slacks-wearing best friend, but especially Quaid and the superlative Moore. She consistently makes us aware of her true feelings in spite of the fixed smile and sunny demeanour that society demand of her role and position.

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originally posted: 08/14/03 13:34:28
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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

11/05/15 David Hollingsworth Amazing film! 5 stars
7/31/08 Ramone Haynes' academic approach doesn't neglect real emotion here 5 stars
6/21/07 fools♫gold Almost as SHOCKINGLY flawless as "Yes." 5 stars
6/01/07 Anton Though the story was a bit flat, Julianne gives another incredible performance. 5 stars
12/28/06 Rob H Felt like an academic exercise or parody. Could not get into it. 2 stars
10/27/06 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
1/03/06 Daveman Hammy, even by melodrama standards. 2 stars
6/02/05 JFK great actings, great plot. Bad ending 4 stars
12/12/04 Charlene Javier Julianne Moore was robbed! 5 stars
9/26/04 NJ Cup Winner 95-00-03 Not as good as I had hoped, tho I respect Moore & Dennis a lot 4 stars
10/05/03 Darryl Seen all this before. Just maybe not in 1957 Hartford. Nothing special. J. Moore is good. 3 stars
10/02/03 Jinnvisible People have Gay and Interracial love problems-- YES WE KNOW-beautifull photography though 4 stars
9/12/03 filmfatale Excellent and riveting movie - Julianne did a great job! 5 stars
8/28/03 Chris The film's not perfect but very good none the less. The actors were all excellent. 4 stars
8/15/03 Ayla much better than expected 4 stars
7/25/03 Léo parent I LOVE THIS MOVIE I THINK IT,A GREAT MOVIE 5 stars
6/03/03 brentley The acting, the cinematography, the set design, everything - was all top notch. 5 stars
5/31/03 Jack Sommersby Familiar ideas directed and performed with flair and power. A wonderful film. 4 stars
5/26/03 Gil Carlson Hopelessly over rated and highly improbable 2 stars
5/12/03 Artist Freak Not as aweomse as I thought it would be. Nice cinematography tho. 4 stars
4/20/03 Boo Splendid 5 stars
4/06/03 gay man who's sirk 5 stars
3/23/03 Kyle Not bad. Didn't meet my expectations, though... 3 stars
3/20/03 regy A quiet gem of a movie. 5 stars
3/05/03 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
2/14/03 Andrew Carden Excellent film, with great performances. Kudos To Julianne Moore 5 stars
2/13/03 Joe Tackled these subjects poorly, go rent a Sirk film instead 1 stars
2/13/03 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
1/01/03 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
12/24/02 Donna Horrendous propoganda in which no character is remotely close to the 50's. 1 stars
12/24/02 anna an incredibly artistic piece of work 5 stars
12/23/02 laura This film is so heavy handed and lacking in subtlety, it's offensive. I'm shocked as well. 2 stars
12/22/02 take1 Very enjoyable 5 stars
12/22/02 RS This could and should have been a good film. It wasn't. 1 stars
12/19/02 geekLove disturbed. Not a good date movie = the husband (me) turns gay, wife (date) loves gardener. 3 stars
12/18/02 steve interesting film for those that love "film," but honestly, it left me feeling cold. 3 stars
12/17/02 Cory Phaeus Moore and Quaid's "acting" is so patently phony, I am astounded the "critics" loved them. 1 stars
12/17/02 This Charming Man perfect period piece - excellent acting 5 stars
12/17/02 Stephen Essential viewing 5 stars
12/15/02 john Score detracts, attempts at saluting sirk distracts, story is weak 2 stars
12/15/02 Mike G Julianne Moore's acting and the set design is amazing! 5 stars
12/11/02 renegade mike the struggle to achieve in atmosphere got in the way of a really compelling story 2 stars
12/10/02 AgainstTheGrain This movie was an academic exercise. Save money, rent a Douglas Sirk movie! 2 stars
12/09/02 Flora P. Re establishes racial boundaries, Negro as spiritual help for troubled white woman 2 stars
12/08/02 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
11/26/02 marzio What a nice surprise: good film, superb cinematography, Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid sim 5 stars
11/21/02 Kenmeister Well-made, well -acted melodrama. The only part that rings false is Raymond. 4 stars
11/10/02 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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