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Far From Heaven
2002 - PG-13 - 107 Mins.
Director: Todd Haynes
Producer: Christine Vachon, Jody Patton
Written By: Todd Haynes
Starring: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson
Review by: Carl Langley
   

Ever heard of Breathsavers?
Todd Haynes’ “Far From Heaven” is masterfully fashioned to conceive the viewer’s eyes into believing they are watching a movie filmed in the 50’s. Haynes takes us back to the 1950’s in Hartford, Connecticut where people live the American Dream: husband and wife, darling children, social prominence, and residing in a comfortable house. Back when the mutual hostility between blacks and whites were high, and blacks worked as maids and gardeners for white folks, information that history has instructed repeatedly for decades. Back when the sight of a married man with another woman would spread gossip throughout the town instantaneously.

Scripted by Haynes as well, the dialogue reflects the same style television shows such as “Leave It to Beaver” and “Dennis the Menace” utilized. For instance, when a little boy does not have his way, he utters in disappointment “Aw shucks”, and then is reprimanded for it. Astonishing as the emulation may be, that is only half of what is fascinating. Haynes has inserted a crisis involving homosexuality and racism into the characters’ lives and forces them to cope, even when they are baffled by it.

“Far From Heaven” concentrates on a marriage and a relationship that one woman employs and what calamities arouse from them. Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) has the perfect marriage to Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid). Together they are famously known as Mr. and Mrs. Magnatech, because of Frank’s involvement in the corporate world as a TV salesman.

One evening when Frank is “working late,” Cathy decides to take Frank’s dinner to his office so he does not have to be stuck with “pretzels and coffee” again. To her dismay, she stumbles upon her husband kissing another man. Later, Frank confesses to always having homosexual desires and agrees to see a doctor to make his marriage compatible. Through her frustration with her marriage problems, Cathy discovers comfort in her black gardener, Randall (Dennis Haysbert). She views him as a beautiful man and becomes aware of how easy her emotional pain is secluded when she converses with him.

Eventually, Cathy raises havoc throughout the town because she is so “friendly with the Negros,” especially her friendship with Randall. In a time era where friendships in mixed races are frowned upon, nasty rumors are spread because of Cathy’s actions. There is no physical violence in Hartford, as there was, for example, in Alabama, but the tension is so high between the races, one tiny spark would provoke a massive fire.

“Far From Heaven” is a graceful, elegant optical wonder. Cinematographer Edward Lachman (2000’s “Erin Brockovich”) uses rich, prolific colors to express the fall season. For example, the multicolored leaves gracefully float across the screen and awe the viewer. The visual spectacle could be a reason alone to watch this intriguing film. The original score is astounding, and Elmer Bernstein’s ingeniousness accompanies the cinematography with a peaceful touch.

The always glimmering, radiant Julianne Moore is outstanding as the troubled woman, handling her failed marriage, and dealing with her contemptible, ill-mannered friends. Dennis Quaid equals his co-star’s performance in a supporting role as the homosexual husband, trying to rid of his despicable problem. Along with his leading role in “The Rookie”, this year Quaid has revived his career and established himself again as a truly good actor among many critics and fans. Both Moore and Quaid should be in the race for Oscars when it becomes time. Dennis Haysbert and Patricia Clarkson respectively give strong supporting performances; Haysbert as the Whitaker’s gardener and Clarkson as Cathy’s best friend.

Haynes shells out different reasons luring viewers to watch his luminous film. One of these reasons is that its intention was to be a tearjerker. What takes away from the perfection of the film is that the viewer is so wrapped up in all the other reasons why the film is magnificent, that we lose focus on fact that the story is full of anguish and low-spirited events. Let’s be honest, does that really matter? The story is simple, but the impact is heavy.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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