"Far From Heaven"
Directed by Todd Haynes.
Written by Todd Haynes.
Starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid and Dennis Haysbert.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 11/20/02
“Far From Heaven” is the work of
writer/director Todd Haynes, who gave us the Ewan McGregor film
“Velvet Goldmine” four years ago. In his latest film, it seems like
he has taken his sweet ol’ time and produced a quality product that
really matches its 50s time period well.
“Far From Heaven” stars Julianne Moore as
Kathleen, a classic housewife that seems inspired by films from the
time period—very much the Mrs. Cleaver, Kathleen is a doting mother
and faithful wife that is a successful homemaker and a respected
member of the Hartford, CT community. Kathleen seems to have it all
going right...until she finds out that her husband (Dennis Quaid) is
having “a case of the gay” by walking in on him at his office one
night. For comfort, she turns to her black gardener (Dennis
Haysbert, the President on “24”) and this sparks a community-wide
gossipfest that slowly destroys Kathleen’s reputation, confidence,
and her family.
From the previews, I really felt like this
film was going to be a slow drama. In fact, Haynes has done such a
beautiful job of emulating films from the 50s—from the amazing
production design to the somewhat-cheesy dialogue to the little
touches, like Moore’s entire costuming layout and the camera angles
used for films of the time—that he actually has a great mix of
comedy, drama and romance going for his film and it mostly works.
Wow, Julianne Moore, folks. Once again she is great but in this
film, I don’t think I have ever been more impressed with her
versatility than now. I just watched “Hannibal” again the other day
and while not a great film, Moore is great as Clarice Starling. She
just seems so different from film to film, and if you were to watch
“Boogie Nights”, then “The Big Lebowski” and then “Far From Heaven”,
I think you would appreciate her skills even more. Quaid is great,
and in the same year as his performance in
“The Rookie”, it seems
like he is making a nice little comeback for himself. Haysbert
continues to impress on his career following his great role last
year in “24”, and the supporting cast of “Far From Heaven” is very
good, mostly led by Patricia Clarkson as Kathleen’s best friend and
The star here in “Far From Heaven” is
clearly the production design. Haynes has a film that seems to ease
into almost every single shot, from the lush foliage in autumn to
sweeping shots of the houses in Hartford to beautiful visuals of the
film’s stars in static shots all over town. Just looking at shots
of replica 1950s automobiles sitting on the street is great. The
visuals, when added to characters spouting phrases right out of
commercials from fifty years, gives you the feeling that you are
sitting in an America from many moons ago. Plus, with the subject
matter at hand—homosexuality, which was viewed as a disease back in
“the old days”, and the lack of acceptance of mixed-race friendships
or relationships way back when—is sure to give you something to talk
about after you leave the theater. For me, I was hit hard with the
irony that fifty years later, I have gotten some of the same looks
that Haysbert’s character gets when he walks into an all-white
diner, for example.
The plot of “Far From Heaven” is at times
predictable and meandering. Also, I felt like the score tried too
hard to provide drama in tense situations when the story was already
doing that for me. Plus, the film—obviously in its attempts to feel
like a period piece—has many over-the-top scenes with its
characters’ reactions to the Moore/Haysbert appearances in public,
and that became a little tiring after a while. But, “Far From
Heaven” is a great film that was very enjoyable in a lot of ways,
and it is a great film for the whole family to try to hit because of
its lack of profanity, sexual references and violence. Mm-hmm!
Rating: $9.00 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard