Far From Heaven
5 out of 5 starsSHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
what imprisons desires of the heart? Taking inspiration from the films of Douglas Sirk and John Stahl, writer-director Haynes flawlessly recreates the look and attitude of this parallel cinematic 1950s universe, then proceeds to tackle modern themes that would have been taboo at the time. The result is nothing short of genius, a film of near flawless perfection that addresses its themes with an unspoken subtlety and features revelatory, heart-stopping performances.

Cathy and Frank Whitaker (Moore and Quaid) have the perfect life in Hartford--the idyllic home, two lively kids (Ward and Andretta) and loyal friends. Frank is so successful in his job at a TV manufacturing company that they're called Mr & Mrs Magnatech, and feature prominently in the company's ad campaigns. But under the smiley-steely surface, Frank is burning with desire for other men. And when Cathy discovers his secret they struggle to find a way back on track. This is made even more difficult when the town gossips start chattering about Cathy's friendship with her recently widowed black gardener (Haysbert), a friendship they can feel developing into something more.

Haynes hits all the technical buttons exactly right--from Ed Lachman's stunning cinematography and Elmer Bernstein's lush score to James Lyon's expert editing and Sandy Powell's astonishing costumes. This looks and sounds exactly like a movie from the 1950s. But more than that, it gets the feelings exactly right as well. The characters and situations reveal so much going on beneath the surface, things no one can acknowledge in such a "perfect" world. It's how a 1950s film would have dealt with sexuality and racism, if it had ever dared to do so. And this makes it startlingly relevant today. Moore expertly captures the crazy balance between Cathy's respectability, fragility and open-mindedness. It's through her eyes that we view the story, and we quickly see beneath her veneer of respectability and control. This is quite simply one of the finest performances ever put on screen! Meanwhile, Quaid delivers the performance we never expected from him--meaty, vulnerable, tormented and even a little edgy. While Haysbert and Clarkson (as Cathy's best friend) offer much more than just supporting performances. It's interesting how this film deals with many of the same themes as American Beauty, but with an even more steady hand and perhaps even more earth-shaking insight. Don't miss it.

cert 12 adult themes, brief language 21.Jan.03

dir-scr Todd Haynes
with Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson, Viola Davis, James Rebhorn, Celia Weston, Michael Gaston, Ryan Ward, Lindsay Andretta, Jordan Puryear, Bette Henritze
release US 8.Nov.02; UK 7.Mar.03
Focus
02/US 1h47

Perfect life. Cathy and Frank's smiles conceal a whole world of conflict under the surface (Moore and Quaid)

moore quaid
clarkson haysbert

Rich Cline & Todd Haynes: INTERVIEW
Haynes & Moore: SAFE

22nd Shadows Awards 22nd SHADOWS AWARDS
WINNER TOP 10 FILM
WINNER BEST ACTRESS Moore
WINNER READER CHOICE:
ACTRESS Moore
WINNER READER CHOICE:
SUPPORTING ACTOR Quaid

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... IndigoJen, Los Angeles: "I thought Julianne Moore's performance was definitely worthy of the nomination, and I loved all the elements individually: the story, the actors, the setting, the costumes. But for me, the way it was directed was both a blessing and a curse. Haynes perfectly recaptured the 50s to the point that it felt almost like you were watching a film made in the 50s ... with all the limitations of the 50s mindset, and the clutural limitations, which was what ultimately made the film watching experience a little bit hollow for me once it was all over. Elements of the film will stay with me for a long time, though." (14.Mar.03)

what imprisons desires of the heart? David Barber, Portsmouth UK: "This was a fantastic film, very moving and so true to life. The prejudices in those days were really terrible against black people and of course being gay was considered to be absolutely taboo. I grew up during the '50s era. The main star's costumes were fabulous, her dresses were georgeous. I have seen 4 of them on show in London at the National Film Theatre, a credit to the costume designer. I myself do design amiture and the '50s was the most wonderful feminine fashion era that to date has never been equaled." (30.Apr.03)

Robert, New York: 5/5 "Words cannot describe how brilliant this film is. Todd Haynes's sensitive and perceptive screenplay and direction bring this film to life. Julianne Moore gives the best performance of the year (male or female) as Cathy Whitaker. The costumes, the score, the art direction, the cast, the cinematography - everything is perfect in this masterpiece. This truly is the best film of 2002." (20.Oct.04)

2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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