Todd Haynes’ FAR FROM HEAVEN [9/10]

Published on: February 22nd, 2003

Of all the movies nominated for this year’s Oscars, none is more worthy of awards than this superbly crafted drama — easily one of the best films of the year. Knowing the Academy, however, it’ll be all too depressingly predictable if Haynes loses out to Nia Vardalos’ My Big Fat Greek Wedding for Best Original Screenplay, and his star Julianne Moore is pipped at the post and loses by a (plasticine) nose to Nicole Kidman, her co-star in The Hours.

As in that (inferior) movie, Moore is superb as a troubled housewife in affluent 1950s small-town America: Cathy Whitaker, whose marriage to TV sales executive Frank (Dennis Quaid, never better) comes under strain as he starts giving way to long-repressed gay impulses. Cathy seeks solace with her gardener Raymond (24′sDennis Haysbert), but when their friendship gradually develops into romance her friends react with horror: not only is Raymond seen as a manual labourer, he also happens to be black…

Far From Heaven is a loose remake of Douglas Sirk’s 1955 Jane Wyman / Rock Hudson tearjerker All That Heaven Allows, and every element of the production (including the Oscar-nominated cinematography and score) brilliantly recreates the look and feel of Sirk’s stylised, artifical world.  In lesser hands, this could easily have resulted in a sterile exercise in ironic, kitschy camp but Haynes somehow delivers a thoroughly absorbing and entertaining but absolutely dead-serious analysis of issues that remain all too pressing five decades on. This is barely a period picture at all: we very quickly forget all about the Sirk-recreation business as we’re willingly swept along by this feat of unashamedly intelligent, unashamedly emotional movie-making.

Neil Young
22nd February, 2003
(seen 24th January, Warner Village, Ellesmere Port)

Far From Heaven : USA 2002 : Todd Haynes : 107m : [9/10]