Review: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary with director Todd Haynes;
The Making Of Far From Heaven; Filmakers Experience; Anatomy Of
A Scene; Trailer.
SEXUAL and racial prejudices in post-war America form the backdrop
of Todd Haynes inspired Far From Heaven, a glorious throwback
to 1950s filmmaking, which dares to tread where movies of that
genre simply couldnt.
Opening with a picture-perfect image of the archetypal Connecticut
family - children playing happily outside, and a well-groomed
mother waiting expectantly for the return of her beloved husband
and father - the movie goes out of its way to make things appear
idyllic, until pulling the carpet right out from under you.
For the apparent suburban bliss masks a hotbed of moral anxieties,
as this seemingly happy family is in the process of
being torn apart by the frustrated desires that have been simmering
under the surface for too long.
For starters, the man of the house, successful businessman, Frank
Whitaker (Dennis Quaid) drinks heavily to try and hide his homosexual
urges, but increasingly takes risks to find fulfilment, while
his wife, Cathy (Julianne Moore), finds herself drawn to her African-American
gardener (played by 24s Dennis Haysbert), and forms a friendship
which sets tongues wagging throughout the community.
The ensuing emotional conundrum makes for enthralling viewing,
as the family attempts to conform to societys dictates,
while causing itself more harm in the process.
Hayes movie, a part homage to the style of filmmaking created
by Douglas Sirk in the Fifties, is a wryly observed, intelligent
and heartbreaking period piece, which looks terrific and boasts
a suitably rousing score from Elmer Bernstein.
The cast, without exception, is superb, with Moore the pick of
the bunch as the dutiful housewife, constantly putting what is
perceived as being appropriate ahead of her own happiness.
Projecting the grace of a Fifties star, and a nice line in comic
under-statement (a golly gosh is far more likely to
be uttered than a swear word), she perfectly taps into the frustrations
of her predicament, providing some genuinely affecting moments
as her world falls apart around her.
Quaid, too, is on terrific form, as the hopelessly popular husband,
who determines to treat his homosexuality as an illness he can
cure, while Haysbert brings the same type of honesty and integrity
to the role as he displays to such mesmerising effect as the president
in televisions 24.
And while Haynes directorial style captures the intense colours
and visual style of Sirks filmmaking (see Imitation of
Life or Written on the Wind), his decision to keep
everything with a grounding in reality provides Far From Heaven
with a far greater emotional intensity, making the surprisingly
downbeat conclusion all the more heartfelt and, at the same time,
Both in filmmaking terms and for audience satisfaction, this is
a masterpiece, which really ought not to be missed by any true
fans of cinema.