'Far From Heaven' delivers career-best performances for Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid
By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service
|||FAR FROM HEAVEN (Rated PG-13 for implied sex, adult themes profanity, and brief violence) Four Stars (Excellent).
A beautiful and deeply affecting film that turns back society's clock with astonishing results. Writer-director Todd Haynes adapts the lush cinematic style of the 1950s to tell a story that couldn't then be told. Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid are both brilliant. Focus Features, 107 minutes.
Writer-director Todd Haynes adapts the lush cinematic style of the 1950s to tell a story that couldn't then be told.
It's the fall of 1957, and the Whitakers seem the ideal upper-middle-class suburban family.
Cathy (Julianne Moore) is the homemaker, wife and mother, filling her days with playing bridge, organizing church sales, coordinating her maid's duties and planning dinner parties.
Her husband, Frank (Dennis Quaid) is the white-collar breadwinner and a respected husband and father. They have two preteen children.
The first crack in the shimmering veneer develops when Cathy discovers Frank kissing a male co-worker after hours at his office. He pledges to combat the "sickness" of homosexuality; still, Cathy's marriage is threatened.
Seeking solace and finding little understanding among her bridge-club friends Cathy puts her head on an unlikely shoulder. It belongs to Raymond Deagan, the family's black gardener, a sensitive soul played by Dennis Haysbert.
And that friendship stirs gossip among neighbors.
In quick succession, "Far From Heaven" sparks drama from two themes homosexuality and racism that weren't on the agenda in the polite society of the '50s.
A provocative, vividly filmed drama, "Far From Heaven" is anchored by Moore and Quaid in the best performances of their careers.
Both Moore and Quaid depict the shattering of illusions in subtle shifts of tone and body language, and in pain-filled glances.
Both characters firmly inhabit the guarded, conservative, tightly wrapped structure of a contented white America in the Eisenhower era but the strain becomes increasing evident.
"Far From Heaven" is a bold artistic step forward for Haynes. It represents a refined, mature effort from the independent filmmaker previously responsible for interesting but more extreme eccentricities like "Poison," "Safe" and "Velvet Goldmine."
Haynes' vision for "Far From Heaven" is informed by his affection for the gloriously glossy films of Douglas Sirk.
The German-born filmmaker was an under-appreciated master of 1950s romantic melodrama, typified by "Magnificent Obsession," "Imitation of Life" and "All That Heaven Allows," which was a particular influence on "Far From Heaven."
The result is a film whose rich but repressed passions surface amid meticulous costumes, pristine sets and perfectly realized period detail.
Every hair is in its proper place, the lipstick is the proper shade, the golden leaves of autumn would inspire a song.
It's a brilliant conceit. Before you have a paradise lost, you have to have a paradise.
Rated PG-13 (Implied sex, adult themes, profanity and brief violence).