Far from Heaven

2002

Drama  

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Julianne Moore as n Cathy Whitakernn
Viola Davis as n Sybilnn
Dennis Quaid as n Frank Whitakernn
Patricia Clarkson as n Eleanor Finenn
720p 1080p
BluRay
n 1280*694 n
n English n
n PG-13 n
n 23.976 fps n
n 1hr 47 min n
P/S 67 / 145
BluRay
n 1920*1040 n
n English n
n PG-13 n
n 23.976 fps n
n 1hr 47 min n
P/S 70 / 166

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by n/a 9 / 10

Very Close to Heaven

Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven, a homage to the 1950s melodramas of Douglas Sirk, is an exquisitely crafted film of beauty and grace. The world that Haynes creates is so meticulously detailed that one almost forgets that the movie isn't fifty years old.Julianne Moore deserves an Academy Award for her portrayal of Cathy Whitaker, a homemaker whose idyllic life begins to disintegrate when she learns that her husband is gay. Moore's Cathy is a delicate woman who would like to be courageous, but can't be because of the world that she is trapped in. As her innocence begins to die, she realizes how empty and superficial her life is. When she begins a cautious romance with her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert) she begins to see the racism and hypocrisy that forms the underbelly of a seemingly perfect world. At the end of the film Cathy has no illusions, and realizes that the life that she thought was perfect is actually a never-ending hell.Dennis Quaid is equally stunning as Cathy's tortured husband Frank. After Cathy discovers his homosexuality, the two are forced to grapple with a truth that neither of them can comprehend. Frank goes to a doctor for "treatment," and his confession is heartbreaking. He says that he "can't let this thing, this sickness, destroy my life. I'm going to beat this thing." We look at Frank and pity him because we realize that such a feat is impossible, and unnecessary, but Frank does not possess that knowledge. Frank begins to drink more, and when he finally breaks down and tells Cathy that he has fallen in love with another man, all of the anger, shame, and joy comes pouring out of him all at once. It is a supremely moving moment, and the best performance of Quaid has ever given.As the marriage between Cathy and Frank begins to unravel, the two also begin to fight. All of Cathy and Frank's arguments and confessions take place at night, bathed in shadows. The truth has no place in this bright, artificial world, and it must stay hidden at all costs. One night, when Frank tries to make love to Cathy and can't, Cathy tries to placate him, saying that he is "all man" to her. At that remark Frank hits her, and for a moment the audience does not breathe. Cathy then asks quietly for her husband to get her some ice. Cathy is all restraints, and it is only with her kind gardener that she has a chance to break free. The scenes between Moore and Haysbert crackle with erotic energy because everything remains unsaid. When Cathy finally asks him to dance with her, it is a moment when we realize what human beings are capable of being together.The fourth example of stellar acting comes from Patricia Clarkson as Cathy's best friend Eleanor. Eleanor is a bitter, gossipy, cold-hearted woman, and when she tells Cathy "I am your best friend," you want to scream to Cathy not to believe her. Clarkson makes the most of her rather limited screen time, and turns in a fascinatingly layered performance.Far From Heaven may very well be the best picture of the year. In creating an artificial world, Todd Haynes has managed to lay bare the human soul in a way that has never been done before. It is a moving and important motion picture, populated with some of the most nuanced acting I have ever seen. Cathy and Frank Whitiker may be far from heaven, but the film comes about as close to heaven as is possible.

Reviewed by n/a 9 / 10

a great film in both form and content

`Far From Heaven' is a total artistic triumph for writer/director Todd Haynes, who has, among other things, provided the most brilliant examination of the codes and values of the 1950's that I have ever seen in a film. His work here turns out to be a uniquely exciting and satisfying blend of form and content. The '50's were, of course, a time when `normality' was the condition most honored and prized in American society. To be just like everyone else was not merely the greatest goal to which one could aspire, but it came to define the very value one had as a human being. And woe to anyone who didn't quite fit into those proscribed limits of `acceptability' - for if one didn't, one had to at least keep up the appearance of respectability and conformity for the benefit of society, even if what went on behind closed doors was something quite different from what people on the outside imagined.The Whitakers are the model of a perfect '50's family. Frank is a handsome, highly successful businessman with a beautiful, well-respected wife, who divides her time between raising their two children, maintaining their lovely suburban home, and spearheading the requisite number of charities for a woman in her position. In fact, she is such an archetype of the ideal housewife that a local society paper has chosen to feature her as one of their profiles. Cathy's perfect life, however, is quickly shattered when she makes the shocking discovery that the husband she loves so dearly is a closeted homosexual, who obviously married her as a means of hiding the truth from both the world and himself. In true '50's fashion, Frank, when Cathy catches him in the act with another man, decides to seek `treatment' from a therapist, in the vain hope that he will be `cured' of his `problem.' These scenes are a jolting and stark reminder of just how far we've come from the days when this unenlightened viewpoint held sway in society. The film also deals with the issue of racism, when Cathy becomes a confidante and friend of a young black man who works as her gardener. When this relationship is noticed by the townspeople, the ugly realities of bigotry and prejudice come to the fore, proving that, even in a place like Connecticut, where no actual laws segregated blacks from whites, the attitudes of the common citizenry were no more enlightened than those that permeated the Deep South.In a stroke of genius, Haynes has patterned his film after actual 1950's melodramas, particularly those by director Douglas Sirk, whose movies like `Imitation of Life' and `Magnificent Obsession' provided daring (for the times) studies of social issues like racism and May/December romances within the context of what were, essentially, glossy, visually palatable soap operas. Sirk's films are often honored for their ability to inject subtly subversive sentiments into popular, mainstream entertainments. `Far From Heaven' looks exactly like those films, from the color-splashed autumnal setting to the picture-perfect interiors of an upper-middle class home in suburban New England where familial and personal problems appear as out of place as `Leave it to Beaver' would seem if it were on network TV today. The astounding achievement here is that Haynes is both paying homage to and utterly destroying the period at the same time. He succeeds in immersing the audience for nearly two hours in this amazingly recreated world. We come to feel as trapped in the stifling setting as the characters themselves do. Haynes captures with emotional force the sense of helplessness these characters feel at not being able to `measure up' to the demands of their world and the utter sadness and loneliness caused by the fact that they don't even have anyone they can truly open up to and discuss their problems with, for they become instant candidates for rumor-mongering and societal rejection the moment they do. `Keeping up appearances' becomes the sole consideration in such circumstances, leading many people to lead lives of quiet desperation, hidden behind blandly conformist, upbeat exteriors. In our day and age, when people have gone to the other extreme - pouring out their every twisted idiosyncrasy on daytime TV talk shows for the benefit of a sensation-craving audience - it's important to be reminded of how much worse the alternative can be. If nothing else, `Far From Heaven' is a study of the kind of emotional and psychological damage that can be inflicted on an individual when a society encourages repression and conformity at all costs.As Cathy, Julianne Moore gives a performance that can be called nothing less than overwhelming. She is utterly heartbreaking as a good-natured woman, totally baffled by the curves life is throwing at her, trying to maintain a façade of normalcy and happiness even though inside her psyche has been inexplicably and irrevocably torn to pieces. She wants desperately to figure out where her husband is coming from, but the distance he keeps putting between himself and her precludes any such understanding. Yet Cathy is also a paradoxical figure in that, even though she is struggling to keep her life and marriage appearing `normal' to the outside world, she is subtly undercutting that goal by challenging the status quo in her relationship with Raymond, the gardener. Her genuine revulsion at the racist attitudes she sees around her compels her to act in a way true to her own convictions. Moore does a perfect job conveying every facet of this richly detailed and complex character. It is certainly award-worthy work from one of our very finest actresses. As Frank, Dennis Quaid, in a controlled, restrained and heart-wrenching performance, captures the sadness of a man who wants desperately to live the life he's chosen but who just can no longer fight against the truth of his own nature. In a way, Cathy and Frank's situations are mirror images of one another. Both discover a `love' on the outside of societal norms, yet, because of the personal pain that that love is inflicting on the other partner in the marriage (his for another man and hers for another man, as well), the two hurting people seem unable to perceive that connection they share. These two fine performers turn what might have been just a cold exercise in style into a deeply moving and profoundly meaningful workTechnically, the film is a masterpiece on every level, from its art direction to its costume design to its cinematography. The veteran composer Elmer Bernstein has provided a richly evocative symphonic score, modeled on actual '50's style soundtracks, that brings out the melodramatic richness of the film's many set pieces. Yet, his work here also has a quieter quality, particularly in the subtle piano riff, which reminds us quite a bit of his classic score for `To Kill a Mockingbird.' As a director, Haynes shows himself in total control of his medium, blending all these elements into a complete and satisfying whole.`Far From Heaven' is really unlike any movie you have ever seen, a fascinating admixture of the old and the modern. It also happens to be one of the very best films of 2002, a true work of art.

Reviewed by n/a 9 / 10

Another superb performance from Julianne Moore

Todd Haynes' achievement in his homage to the films of Douglas Sirk is so complete, and seems so carefree that it is easy to dismiss FAR FROM HEAVEN as a trifle. The look of such ease is deceptive, however. Haynes' accomplishment, that of telling a new story through a loving recreation of the 50's weepy, is visually sumptuous and sweetly moving. The painstaking effort, from the amazingly overblown dialogue (ever so slightly exaggerated from the style of the actual 50's weepy) to the oversaturated colors and evocative score, never strains the film. In Julianne Moore he finds the perfect heroine. Her performance is so skilled that we don't see her at work. Though nominated, Ms. Moore was sadly overlooked at the 2003 Oscars. Apparently no one could see past Nicole Kidman's prosthetic nose in THE HOURS. (When a beautiful actress plays "ugly" she wins an award. Ms. Kidman's performance in THE HOURS is one of her best in that deeply moving film, but it hardly matches the subtlety and difficulty of Ms. Moore's work in FAR FROM HEAVEN.) With such breathtaking ease that we forget she is acting, Ms. Moore scales the grand challenge of using melodramatic dialogue that verges deliberately on camp to reveal the tenderness and desire of the naive 50's housewife who is the center of FAR FROM HEAVEN. (Watch her face in an early scene where she and the excellent Patricia Clarkson talk with their girlfriends about their respective marriages.) Credit must be given to Haynes as well, who asks his cast to play it straight. Ms. Moore, who consistently achieves beauty and depth with each performance, brings this tender film to life. She has a fine counterpart in the handsome and Dennis Quaid who has not had such a plumb role since his early days. Though every film should stand on its own, you should check out the milieu that Todd Haynes is working in ? the oeuvre of Douglas Sirk being the main source ? but you can also check out earlier films like DARK VICTORY and other domestic dramas.

Reviewed by n/a 9 / 10

Works on several levels (though some better than others)

Had it been released in the year it's set in -- 1957 -- FAR FROM HEAVEN would have broken grounds on several different levels because it brings to light what stories then only hinted at. Todd Haynes, channeling Douglas Sirk inch by inch, goes one step further and comes up with a masterpiece of domestic melodrama.This is the story of three people caught in unfortunate circumstances. The Whitakers, Cathy and Frank (Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid), are the Perfect Couple, married and living under the conservative spotlight of Suburbia, known more as Mr. and Mrs. Magnatech, successful -- the couple who have everything going for them. Of course, with the slight detail that Mr. Whitaker is gay and about to come out.Coming into the picture at the time the local society writer (Celia Weston) comes to interview Cathy about their idealistic marriage life, Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert) enters the picture. A quiet man who happens to be black in a time when being black meant being segregated, Cathy expresses kindness to him, and the writer jots down 'friend to Negros' which comes to mark Cathy later on.Frank's double life is the catalyst which will bring Cathy and Raymond together. When Cathy, in her manicured, wifely way, comes to bring Frank his dinner at work, she walks in to seeing him kissing another man (Matt Malloy). Clearly, something is wrong in this picture... and gets progressively so when Frank decides to beat his illness, while still going to sordid bars with equally ashamed men who hang out with the spectre of fear just out of frame, as if one of the many bar raids would befall them at any moment.Once Frank is out of the picture Cathy turns to Raymond for solace. Friends begin talking, mainly through the correctly named Eleanor Fine (a chilling Patricia Clarkson) who doesn't know how to react to this friendship, while we know she is probably spinning stories behind Cathy's back. It is here when the morals of the time come into play. We are, in fact, reminded that this is the late fifties at every turn. Cathy has been 'seen' with a Negro and this means trouble. Frank, even though he already has a boyfriend, can't stand her friendship. Raymond's daughter gets assaulted by a couple of boys coming home from school. Doors are closing all around Cathy, but there is the hope she may leave with him to Baltimore. Raymond assures her, that is impossible.The Douglas Sirk influence virtually comes out of the screen at every frame in Todd Haynes film. From the saturated color and excellent cinematography, set decoration, to the almost exact acting from all the leads and supporting actors and its pessimistic/happy ending. Where many movies fail through anachronisms, an almost perfect attention to detail has been taken to make this movie as authentic as possible -- down to the cinematic language and its characters, who are enclosed in its time period. For example, in one scene, Frank swears... but then apologizes, because it is impolite to do so. His gayness even as the film reaches its conclusion remains closeted, within its shame, as he secretly meets with his boyfriend. No happy ending for him here. Neither for Cathy and Raymond, whose acquaintance is vibrant with tension even though they barely exchange a shy kiss and are destined to remain apart. It reminded me a little of IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000), another film enclosed in its time period with the two romantic leads knowing their chances of a relationship is nil due to tradition. Here it's man's bigotry to himself.

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