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Cathy is the perfect 50s housewife, living the perfect 50s life: healthy kids, successful husband, social prominence. Then one night she stumbles in on 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>
Todd Haynes' achievement in his homage to the films of Douglas Sirk is so complete, and seems so carefree that it is easy to dismiss FAR FROM HEAVEN as a trifle. The look of such ease is deceptive, however. Haynes' accomplishment, that of telling a new story through a loving recreation of the 50's weepy, is visually sumptuous and sweetly moving. The painstaking effort, from the amazingly overblown dialogue (ever so slightly exaggerated from the style of the actual 50's weepy) to the oversaturated colors and evocative score, never strains the film.
In Julianne Moore he finds the perfect heroine. Her performance is so skilled that we don't see her at work. Though nominated, Ms. Moore was sadly overlooked at the 2003 Oscars. Apparently no one could see past Nicole Kidman's prosthetic nose in THE HOURS. (When a beautiful actress plays "ugly" she wins an award. Ms. Kidman's performance in THE HOURS is one of her best in that deeply moving film, but it hardly matches the subtlety and difficulty of Ms. Moore's work in FAR FROM HEAVEN.) With such breathtaking ease that we forget she is acting, Ms. Moore scales the grand challenge of using melodramatic dialogue that verges deliberately on camp to reveal the tenderness and desire of the naive 50's housewife who is the center of FAR FROM HEAVEN. (Watch her face in an early scene where she and the excellent Patricia Clarkson talk with their girlfriends about their respective marriages.)
Credit must be given to Haynes as well, who asks his cast to play it straight. Ms. Moore, who consistently achieves beauty and depth with each performance, brings this tender film to life. She has a fine counterpart in the handsome and Dennis Quaid who has not had such a plumb role since his early days.
Though every film should stand on its own, you should check out the milieu that Todd Haynes is working in the oeuvre of Douglas Sirk being the main source but you can also check out earlier films like DARK VICTORY and other domestic dramas.
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