Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore
FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002). Writer/director: Todd Haynes.

"I've fallen in love with someone who wants to be with me."

Todd Haynes, who has obviously seen the Douglas Sirk-directed All That Heaven Allows (produced by Ross Hunter) more than once, came up with this new take 43 years after the original. In Heaven Allows Jane Wyman causes a scandal in a small town because she starts seeing a younger man, Rock Hudson. In Far From Heaven, the scandal occurs when Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) develops a romantic friendship with her black gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert) in 1950s Connecticut. If that didn't create enough problems for her, she brings supper to her husband, Frank (Dennis Quaid) in the office one night and catches him kissing another man. Can husband and wife each find happiness -- with someone else? Far From Heaven deliberately has the style of prime Ross Hunter, as well as a lush romantic score by Elmer Bernstein, and it is quite well-acted by the leads. Haynes avoids the trap of making all of these people too nice -- Frank is initially tormented by his sexuality, but one senses he's not the most pleasant person in the world to begin with and certainly not much of a father. One can quibble with a lot of things about the movie -- there are times when it approaches parody, the characters aren't as dimensional as they might have been, and Cathy seems a little unreal at first -- but it eventually becomes quite compelling and moving. Among the supporting cast, Patricia Clarkson scores as Cathy's friend, as does the authoritative Viola Davis (of Doubt and later star of that absurd but entertaining show How to Get Away With Murder) as Cathy's maid Cynthia. Some viewers thought Raymond was just a token character, which sort of misses the point. Haynes recognizes that a movie set in the fifties can't be too politically correct as it might seem unrealistic.  While Far From Heaven is like a Ross Hunter movie with added depth and dimension, the screenplay still seems like something from the fifties and the picture may be too glossy for its own good. Still, it's a lovely movie. Haynes also wrote and directed the 2011 cable remake of Mildred Pierce. Both Moore and Clarkson played batty mothers in two remakes of Carrie, Moore in 2013 and Clarkson in 2002.

Verdict: Viewers who go with the flow may find this quite rewarding. ***1/2.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill, I think you like this film far more than I do...I do appreciate the production design and homage to the Rock Hudson/Jane Wyman Douglas Sirk films, but found the storyline kind of ho-hum...I would have been FAR more interested if Dennis Quaid had been the one having the affair with Dennis Haysbert, that would have piqued my interest!

So funny that Clarkson and Moore both played Carrie's mother (not nearly as effectively as Piper Laurie in the original movie or Betty Buckey onstage!!) They areboth wonderful actors, but I like them better in other films.

My favorite Todd Haynes films are the Mildred Pierce miniseries and his wonderful 1998 glam rock fantasia Velvet Goldmine. Far from Heaven is far from my fave!!


William said...

Well, I do agree that a relationship between Quaid and Haysbert would certainly have been more interesting and added a lot of drama considering it takes place in the racist and homophobic sixties [or I should say when things were even more racist and homophobic). Quaid's characters is the only one who shows any real angst, and I did think this was sometimes on the superficial side, but I enjoyed it. I'll have to check out "Velvet Goldmine!"