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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 dionwr

"Where Pleasantville had gone before"
4 stars

Sometimes the consideration of one movie can help you appreciate another. After having finally gotten to see it, I think "Far From Heaven" is making exactly the same point "Pleasantville" did, but in a different way.

This is not meant as a criticism of Far From Heaven, which is a superb piece of work, but as description.

Far From Heaven is an attempt to make a Douglas Sirk melodrama from 1957, but adding the explicit themes (of homosexuality and racism) that Sirk would have dealt with only obliquely, if at all. They struggled mightily to make this modern film EXACTLY as if it was made in 1957--and they succeeded.

The film is superbly crafted in its every element, from set design, score, and cinematography up to the acting and writing. Julianne Moore, who one just expects these days to be excellent, excels herself in a pitch-perfect portrayal of a woman with a lot going on under what seems the perfect suburban housewife's exterior. She is matched by career-best work from Dennis Quaid, as her deeply closeted husband.

The plot is borrowed from Sirk's All That Heaven Allows, in which an older woman (Jane Wyman) becomes the object of much gossip in her small town because she starts an affair with her lower-class gardener (Rock Hudson). The forbidden love there is replaced in Far From Heaven by Moore's infatuation with her black gardener, played by Dennis Haysbert. One of the factors impelling her to seek attention is her discovery of her husband's homosexuality. As in its inspiration, the relationship with the gardener is, of course, doomed to failure.

For me, the gay theme worked better; I believed in it more than the interracial love story. Maybe Todd Haynes's heart was in the gay story more, but there is an element of reality to it that is missing from the other, which somehow smacked of Hollywood artifice. Expertly done Hollywood artifice, but still.

By casting his story in the terms of the 50's, and adhering to its own forms, playing by its own rules, Haynes gives his film a highly-charged emotional atmosphere, where the smallest things mean a lot. When scenes of actual cruelty which would not have made it into a 1950's movie do break the surface in this one, the effect is astonishing.

For one example, The entire audience I was with drew in their breath as one, loudly, when Quaid, in a drunken rage, tells his wife, "Fuck you!" And then we all laughed, realizing how atypical that reaction was for us, how jarring such swearing had become to us because of the mood the film had created.

You have to wonder, however, what is served by making this film? Why would anyone re-create such an artifact of the 50's? And the only reason to do so is to show the difference between then and now, how far we've come, how we've changed.

And that brings me to Pleasantville.

Pleasantville is direct where Far From Heaven is indirect: its modern characters are actually, physically transported into a fantasy world of the 1950's and forced to deal with it. Because Pleasantville is a comedy, it is more easily appreciated than Far From Heaven, but there is a depth to its consideration of that repressed and benighted time fully equal to that of Far From Heaven.

It's interesting, but the reviews of Far From Heaven have been much more positive than those of Pleasantville, suffering, I believe, from that stupid old prejudice that drama is somehow more important than comedy.

My single criticism of Far From Heaven is that while it does what it's trying to do perfectly, it is as carefully designed as its characters' perfectly coiffed hair. Once you know where it's going, it doesn't surprise.

Still, there is real richness here, and a chance to see a bunch of folks working at their peak.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 03/21/03 12:07:07
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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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