Far From Heaven
A movie by Todd Haynes
With Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, and others
Connecticut in the 50ies. The perfect world of model housewife Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) is shattered when she surprises her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) with another man in his office. While Frank is trying to fight his "unnatural inclination" with the help of therapist Dr. Bowman (James Rebhorn), Cathy is seeking comfort with her African American gardener Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert). But in this oh-so-liberal small town a white woman cannot risk to even talk to a black man on the street, let alone have dinner with him.
Far From Heaven is a movie living off the performance of its actors. The scenery of the 50ies is perfectly rendered, from the typeset of the credits to the petticoats and cocktails, but it is mainly this perfection that makes you strongly aware you are looking at just that: a setting.
Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid are playing the parts of their broken characters masterfully. Dennis Haysbert is something of a calming influence from the very beginning. Still, director Todd Haynes has taken a bigger bite than he was able to chew. Racism, homosexuality, emancipation – he had to tackle it all, resulting in some things not being addressed at all or only superficially. The movie is centred on Cathy, partly breaking out of her life resembling a TV commercial and partly being literally thrown out of it. During the whole movie, Julianne Moore looks like she stepped right out of a magazine for housewives. Her efforts to show how her character tries to hold her life together are moving, but she doesn't get much help from the supporting cast. At first Haynes is still trying to show us the complete picture, but later in the movie the narrative becomes more sketchy and he tells his story through platitudes. Especially the subplot involving Dennis Quaid suffers from this; it starts out interesting but is abandoned as the film moves on.
While I was still willing to believe that a sheltered housewife regarding herself a liberal isn't really aware of the consequences of being seen in town in the company of her African American gardener or frequenting a "black" restaurant, I found it highly improbable for the above-mentioned gardener whose livelihood depends on his reputation to throw himself so carelessly into this friendship. Raymond Deagen stays a rather one-dimensional character; Dennis Haysbert does nothing to make him more rounded.
What could have been a thoughtful movie soon turns into a flat costume drama. Though Julianne Moore boosts its artistic value, Far From Heaven is lacking something substantial.
Last changes: 21/11/04
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