Far From Heaven (2002)
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Personally, I don't care which period piece I win for, I just want to win . . . Period.
From it's opening credits, Far From Heaven emulates the 50's melodrama with absolute perfection. While it is a homage to the works of Douglas Sirk, it takes on a personae all it's own thanks to creative direction and a sharply written screenplay by Todd Haynes.
Far From Heaven features Julianne Moore in a riveting turn as Cathy Whitaker, a near perfect 50's housewife who desperately tries to keep it together after learning that her husband Frank (a fantastic Dennis Quaid) may be having an affair. With nowhere to turn, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with Raymond Deagan, her African American gardener (wonderfully played by 24's Dennis Haysbert). Of course such friendships were frowned upon in this particular era, and this creates quite a stir among the local town folk. Initially, what struck me most about Far From Heaven was it's grasp on the time period. The art direction is uncanny while the dialogue is absolutely dead on. As the movie progressed, I became completely wrapped up in the stellar performances of the three leads.
Julianne Moore is breathtaking as a woman who, despite much heartache, must remain strong through difficult times. Moore is spellbinding, bringing passion and vulnerability to this terrific character.
The forever underrated Dennis Quaid turns in one of the strongest performances of his career as Frank, Kathy's confused husband. He is both subtle and sad as a man with a dark secret. And last but certainly not least is Dennis Haysbert, an actor I've been fond of ever since his hilarious turn as Pedro Cerrano in Major League. I've also admired his commanding performance as the President on TV's 24. Here, he's graceful as Raymond and brings a sense of honesty and sweetness to the role.
The only complaint I have with this film is that the relationship that takes place between Frank and his new love interest--is definitely rushed. It happens midway through the film and it felt underdeveloped. But then this movie isn't so much about that incident as it is about the effect it has on Kathy's life.
This is a groundbreaking achievement for writer/director Todd Haynes. While I'm not completely familiar with the works of Douglas Sirk, it is quite obvious that Haynes did his homework on 50's melodrama--this picture feels as if it were made in the 50's. What's more striking is that he's added elements that would have been considered too taboo during the time. This makes Far From Heaven all the more intriguing, especially given that it deals with subject matter that is all the more relevant today.
With perfect lighting, spectacular cinematography, picture perfect art direction, stellar performances and a sure handed Haynes in control, this is easily one of the best films of the year. Far From Heaven isn't far from perfect.
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