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Jonathan Rhys Meyers,
Cathy is the perfect 50s housewife, living the perfect 50s life: healthy kids, successful husband, social prominence. Then one night she surprises her husband Frank kissing another man, and her tidy world starts spinning out of control. In her confusion and grief, she finds consolation in the friendship of their African-American gardener, Raymond - a socially taboo relationship that leads to the further disintegration of life as she knew it. Despite Cathy and Frank's struggle to keep their marriage afloat, the reality of his homosexuality and her feelings for Raymond open a painful, if more honest, chapter in their lives. Written by
Jonas A. Reinartz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid effectively inhabit their roles in "Far From Heaven," an engrossing flashback to an affluent northeastern suburb, Hartford CT in 1957-8. Quaid is Frank Whitaker, top sales exec in a company meeting the voracious needs of American consumers for the latest in gadgets and appliances. His wife, Cathy, is so much the high profile model for the typical stay-at-home, support your hubby, take care of the kids mom that she is shadowed by the local gossip reporter and her photographer. She thinks she has the perfect marriage and two terrific if not invariably best behaved kids. Both, however, are too interesting to be mistaken as a large screen resurrection of a 50s sitcom couple.
Cathy can't catch the clue when she bails Frank out of the police station and he mutters angrily about the arresting officers mistaking him for a "loiterer." A loiterer in a neat business suit with a topcoat in Hartford? Only one kind of well-dressed character like that attracted police attention in those days.
Dispensing good cheer everywhere, Cathy decides to bring dinner to her hardworking-at-night husband (no spoiler here, every media review has this part). And what should she find? Frank is in the arms of a man, kissing him actually, clothing in disarray.
Today, a presumably straight spouse or lover being gay, secretly, isn't a taboo subject. It was in Cathy and Frank's time and, in fact, no movie from that period would have touched this subject with a ten-foot boom mike. "An Affair to Remember" was risque enough.
Cathy insists Frank get help and James Rebhorn in a brief role as psychiatrist Dr. Bowman explains the most modern therapeutic approaches to "converting" Frank to exclusive heterosexuality. This was in the days when homosexuality was an official diagnosed mental illness.
In what could have been a familiar variation of the white/black awkward beginnings of friendship seen in Sidney Poitier movies but which in this instance has a refreshing originality, Cathy befriends gardener Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert). An attractive and prominent white woman being seen in public with a black man in the South at this time would have led to probably horrific repercussions. Here we get to see 1950s racist northern suburbia, people who decry Arkansas obduracy (there's a brief shot of President Eisenhower on TV announcing the despatch of the 101st Airborne Division to confront the state's mad governor at Little Rock High School) while dispensing their own venom. No guns, no lynchings, no white sheets - just an insidious degradation of blacks, reducing them to actual invisibility when convenient.
The friendship between Cathy and Raymond is at first tentative and it grows with affecting tenderness. So does the shocked anger of the wealthy gaggle in Frank and Cathy's social circle.
Is Frank cured of his "illness?" Does racial tolerance and respect for diversity seep into Hartford's tony neighborhood? Does everyone live happily ever after? Go see the film. The mid-afternoon packed audience in Manhattan's Lincoln Plaza Cinema broke into applause at the end.
Viola Davies turns in a small but critically important role as the Whitaker's maid, Sybil. Fine acting.
Director Todd Haynes allowed Moore and Quaid to make their roles real, involving, and anguished and funny in turn. Both stars deserve Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
Rooted in the 50s in many ways, composer Elmer Bernstein turned out a good score, original rather than depending on recognizable tunes from the time. But as is so often the case, at points the score is unduly intrusive where the actors' words and expressions convey all that is necessary, music being an annoyance.
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