Far From Heaven

Critics Consensus

An exquisitely designed and performed melodrama, Far From Heaven earns its viewers' tears with sincerity and intelligence.

88%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 219

80%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 23,224
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Movie Info

It is the fall of 1957. The Whitakers, the very picture of a suburban family, make their home in Hartford, Connecticut. Their daily existences are characterized by carefully observed family etiquette, social events, and an overall desire to keep up with the Joneses. Cathy Whitaker is the homemaker, wife and mother. Frank Whitaker is the breadwinner, husband and father. Together they have the perfect '50s life: healthy kids and social prominence. Then one night, Cathy discovers her husband's secret life and her tidy, insular world starts spinning out of control. Fearing the consequences of revealing her pain and confusion to anyone in her own social circle, she finds unexpected comfort and friendship with her African-American gardener, Raymond Deagan. Cathy's interactions with Raymond; her best friend Eleanor Fine; and her maid, Sybil, reflects the upheaval in her life. Cathy is faced with choices that spur gossip within the community, and change several lives forever.

Cast

Julianne Moore
as Cathy Whitaker
Dennis Quaid
as Frank Whitaker
Dennis Haysbert
as Raymond Deagan
Patricia Clarkson
as Eleanor Fine
James Rebhorn
as Dr. Bowman
Bette Henritze
as Mrs. Leacock
Ryan Ward
as David
Celia Watson
as Mona Lauder
Jason Franklin
as Photographer
Gregory Marlow
as Reginald Carter
June Squibb
as Elderly Woman
Laurent Giroux
as Man with Moustache
Alex Santoriello
as Spanish Bartender
Matt Malloy
as Red-Faced Man
J.B. Adams
as Farnsworth
Kevin Carrigan
as Soda Jerk
Chance Kelly
as Tallman
Declan Baldwin
as Officer No. 1
Brian Delate
as Officer No. 2
Joe Holt
as Hotel Waiter
Ben Moss
as Hutch's Friend
Susan Willis
as Receptionist
Karl Schroeder
as Conductor
Lance Olds
as Bail Clerk
Nicholas Joy
as Blond Boy
Virl Andrick
as Blond Boy's Father
Jonathan McClain
as Staff Member No. 1
Geraldine Bartlett
as Woman at Party
Ernest Rayford III
as Glaring Man
Betsy Aidem
as Pool Mother
Mary Anna Klindtworth
as Pool Daughter
Ted Neustadt
as Pool Daughter
Thomas Torres
as Band Leader
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Critic Reviews for Far From Heaven

All Critics (219) | Top Critics (55) | Fresh (192) | Rotten (27)

  • With a classic storytelling style bordering on corniness, a deft tragicomic touch and a heroic refusal to use the safety net of irony, Haynes has managed to produce something of a gem.

    Jan 2, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid are outstanding as Cathy and Frank Whitaker, a perfect couple with a decidedly imperfect love life.

    Dec 3, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • The actors move about this elaborate movie museum in a modified dream state, as if living in the present while rooted in the past. But the strategy doesn't work. It's an imitation of lifelessness.

    Apr 1, 2014
  • We are left wondering why, in any case, an imitation Sirk was needed, what appetite or interest it might fill. Even with its latter-day (modified) frankness, Far From Heaven is only thin glamour that lacks a tacit wry base.

    Apr 1, 2014 | Full Review…
  • With tact and care, the movie digs into all the subjects that lay concealed below the surface when Max Ophuls and Douglas Sirk were filming their own melodramas in the nineteen-fifties.

    Apr 1, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Quaid makes a decent man's anguish richly palpable. Moore makes us feel hidden frenzy with a cool and ultimately heartbreaking grace.

    Apr 1, 2014 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Far From Heaven

  • Sep 11, 2018
    Emulating with perfection the style of Douglas Sirk's melodramas from the 1950s and with a gorgeous cinematography, Todd Haynes relies on two splendid performances by Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid to make a powerful and still relevant statement on intolerance.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 11, 2016
    Todd Haynes has often been an experimental director throughout his career. He tackled the Glam Rock era with the dazzling, if mid-judged, Velvet Goldmine and had 6 different actors portray various phases of Bob Dylan in I'm Not There. Most recently his adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's Carol made many critics and viewers' lists for the best film of 2015. Despite his creative ambitions, however, he's never really been recognised in terms of awards. The only Oscar nomination he has received was, in fact, an Original Screenplay one for this film. I've yet to see Carol (which apparently shares similarities with this) but so far, Far From Heaven is Haynes' masterpiece. Connecticut in 1957 finds Cathy (Julianne Moore) and Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid) as the seemingly perfect couple at the heart of their community. Frank has a secret, though, and when Cathy discovers his double life, she begins a friendship with her black gardener Raymond (Dennis Haysbert). But such behaviours soon invite the unwanted attention and scorn of their so-called friends and neighbours. As soon as this film opens, you are instantly struck by Elmer Bernstein's evocative score and a colourful palette that just radiates from the screen. It doesn't take long to realise that Haynes is paying homage to the film's of the 1950's. Douglas Sirk is a particular director that Haynes is emulating and recreating his melodramatic soap opera's like Imitation of Life or All That Heaven Allows is so convincing that you'd be forgiven for questioning whether or not you're watching a contemporary film. There's an intoxicating attention to detail whereby Haynes puts so much care into this film that you're transported back the 50's era. His efforts are so meticulous and refined that Far From Heaven is nothing less than a stunningly crafted piece of cinema. Peter Rogness' art design and Mark Friedberg's production design are simply splendid and the lavish costumes by Sandy Powell change throughout the film to suit the seasonal changes in the plot. All of this is perfectly framed by Edward Lachman's stunning cinematography. His use of light and vibrant, oversaturated colours keep in tune with the bold use of technicolor from Sirk's melodrama's and is absolutely exquisite work. Haynes' intention is to capture the nuclear, corporate family living the dream of white picket fence America and he does so with a confidence and hugely creative eye. Despite his accomplished recreation of the times, however, Haynes chooses an entirely different direction for his narrative. What sets his film apart from the style of Douglas Sirk is that Sirk's films were all very conservative, whereas Haynes' perfect suburbia is shattered by very personal problems that would have been taboo and risqué by any standards during the 50's. Society, in Haynes' world, is full of casual racists and homophobes who view homosexuality as an illness and being kind to Negros socially unacceptable. The underrated Patricia Clarkson is the perfect embodiment for the judgmental rottenness that permeates the neighbourhood. She epitomises the very people of society that the three, inherently decent, principal characters of Quaid, Haysbert and Moore are up against. With the facade of some and anguish of others, it cuts across so many divides: gender, race, class, sexual orientation but although it's about several different levels of oppression it's, at it's heart, a story about the oppression of women. Ultimately, this is about a women's place at this time; how tolerant they were expected to be and how keeping up appearances was at the forefront of their place within a fractured, consumerist environment. With his experimental evocation, Haynes could easily fall prey to pretension but for as much style as the film has, it has content to match. Simply speaking, it's a work of art. Mark Walker
    Mark W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 29, 2013
    More like an episode of "Mad Men", Todd Haynes' period piece drama "Far From Heaven" tackles some racy issues including homosexuality in the late '50s, interracial relationships, and divorce, all on the backdrop of a picture perfect '50s family. Julianne Moore plays the matriarch of the family, Cathy Whitaker, a stay-at-home mom with more on her plate than the average professional. Between magazine interviews, party planning, and keeping the household in order, Cathy barely has enough time to gossip with her fellow stay-at-home wives, including Eleonor (Patricia Clarkson). Her drifting husband, Frank (Dennis Quaid) is kept away from the home by work, or so he would have her think. A late night dinner run to the office to see her husband proves harmful when the truth surfaces of why he actually stays late at work. Add to that the blossoming relationship between herself and her black gardener Raymond (Dennis Haysbert) and the film is a muddle of a gossiper's delight. Moore steals the show with her reserved nature, powering through the heavy portions of the film, putting the entire cast of "Mad Men" to shame. However, Quaid and Haysbert never quite bring to the table the same level of awe. And Viola Davis shows her uncanny nature as a maid almost a decade before "The Help". "Far From Heaven" never quite answers a majority of its questions and really does come off like an episode of a television show, but with enough star power and "before its time" content, the film holds together well enough to captivate.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • Sep 08, 2013
    "Save me from this prison, Lord, help me get away, 'cause only you can save me now from this misery, 'cause I've been lost in my own place, and I'm gettin' weary; how far is Heaven?" I'm so, so, so sorry, I'm not even crazy about that song, it's just that I'm watching this film after that song - which is two years younger - was released, so I just could not help myself. Besides, Chicano rock is kind of fitting, because as much as this film is driven by themes dealing with race, gender, sexual orientation and class, we may as well slap in a Mexican ethnicity for good measure. Music should be a major theme also because this stylish period drama about gays' problems, women's problems and Julianne Moore's problems is in more-or-less ever other way the definitive Todd Haynes film, except it actually made its budget back. Huh, and Russell Crowe didn't join this project because he thought that it would be too low-profile, but lo and behold, his bold statement was challenged by this film's shockingly exceeding its outrageous of... $13.5 million. Shoot, I joke, but "Velvet Goldmine" didn't cost but $9 million and didn't even make it to $2 million at the box office, but that was 1998, and this is the 21st century (2001 mind you, but the 21st century nonetheless), where the struggles of the homosexuals are respected enough for us to sit down and embrace film that outline the depths of their hard live... as well as the hard lives of the blacks and women who we keep kissing up to. This is a film for liberals, to be sure, but hey, my conservative self liked it, and yet, it's "far from heaven...ly" (Tee-hee), and for several reasons. This is certainly a pretty modernist film, but Todd Haynes makes the nifty stylistic choice of marrying contemporary filmmaking sensibilities with sensibilities of films from the late-'50s era in which this drama takes place, and such a move is unique and often effective, but the dark, dirty secret in the film industry is that they weren't exactly making terribly sharp decisions back in the day when it came to filmmaking, so when this effort does anything from presenting distancingly near-amateur fade transitions or overplaying the colorful score, it's hard not to be thrown off, especially when the modern filmmaking sensibilities work their way back in, and not all that organically. The film is kind of uneven in its storytelling style, juggling contemporary and old-fashioned filmmaking sensibilities with off-putting assurance issues that go matched in severity only by inconsistencies in the story itself. It's hard not to appreciate this film's thematic depth, as it is uniquely handled and worthy, but quite frankly, this drama does indeed get pretty carried away with its being packed with so many themes and plot layers, to the point of feeling overblown, or at least as though it has trouble juggling all of its key elements without evading focal unevenness. The film gets to be excessive and inconsistent in its layered storytelling and struggle to flesh out as much as it can, and yet, no matter how much this film wears itself out with depth, there's still something kind of undercooked-feeling about it, as immediate development is lacking, and attention to full dramatic depth has its limited areas, yet there is still more time than there should be that is dedicated to the aforementioned excess material. Haynes will carry this film a long way in a lot of places, and then he'll end up making some questionable move that holds things back, so don't go in expecting this effort to be as realized as something like "I'm Not There" or something, no matter how much it may feel like Haynes wants to carry this vision to that level, due to a palpable sense of ambition that reflects the areas in which Haynes falls short. This is a rewarding drama, but it's not what it could have been, nor is it what Haynes wants it to be, even though he tries so hard to bring effectiveness through the questionable stylistic choices, excessive thematic depth and, in some ways, subtle storytelling that ironically end up holding back Haynes' vision. Nonetheless, Haynes' keeps the film going more than he holds it back, crafting an ultimately very compelling and lavish drama, but not without the help of some fine artistic collaborators. A bona fide legend in film scoring if there ever was one, the now-late, great Elmer Bernstein was among the definitive film score composers of the 1950s, thus, back in 2002, Todd Haynes summoned Bernstein to this project to compose what would end up being his final score, and by extension, quite the capper to a legendary career, because even though Haynes' plays with the atmosphere of Bernstein's efforts are occasionally cloying, Bernstein's unique and beautiful marriage of subtle modern tastes and good-old fashioned color is both musically outstanding and about as complimentary to the selling of this era as Peter Rogness' art direction. This wouldn't exactly be an effective 1950s homage if the art department didn't put its all into reviving this distinguished era as lavishly as he can, thus Rogness pumps a lot of inspiration into his leading an inspired design team, highlighted by production designer Mark Friedberg and costume designer Sandy Powell, both of whom deliver on mesmerizingly intricate designs that, on top of being immersive, captivate with a loveliness that goes complimented by Edward Lachman's lushly colored and warmly lit cinematography. Visually arresting and musically delightful, this film excels from a stylistic standpoint so much that if you see this effort for no other reason, see it to marvel at its artistic integrity, but don't go in expecting this film to only have artistry going for it, because when it comes to substance, praise is also due, if limited. As I've been saying, storytelling gets to be problematic, whether when it's getting to be uneven in its narrative style, or when it's getting to be overblown with its thematic depth and dramatic layers, but where this story concept could have really thinned out its weight, or even slipped into conventionalism, this compelling narrative, even in concept, is unique and complex on both a thematic level and dramatic level, with worthy messages and a very human core that go brought to life in inspired storytelling. Todd Haynes' score may get to be overblown and uneven, but where this very boastful thematic drama could have gone the way of other dramas of its nature and collapsed into glaring subtlety issues, there's a very sharp and controlled cleverness to Haynes' writing that keeps characterization about as well-rounded as it can be with limited expository depth, and it itself is brought to life by genuine highlights in Haynes' direction, whose heart may get to be too ambitious for you to not notice the shortcomings in this efforts' struggle for excellence, but carries a flavorful thoughtfulness that keeps entertainment value consistent, until broken up by genuine emotional resonance whose effectiveness ranges from gripping to moving. Haynes' inspired offscreen performance as both writer and director builds a very endearing human drama, but what truly brings this character study to life is the onscreen talent, because if nothing else outside of style is consistently strong about this film, it's the performances, particularly those of the leads, with Dennis "The Allstate Guy" Haysbert being thoroughly charismatic as an intellectual black man who challenges the judgment of society, while Dennis Quaid all but steals the show in his emotionally powerful portrayal of a married man who comes to discover dark depths about himself, and leading lady Julianne Moore carries the drama with an effortlessly layered portrayal of an upstanding woman of the community whose flaws and questionable decisions will threaten her with the scorn of her peers and the devastation of a fantasy life. In most every regard, this film is inspired, and that makes the final product's falling just short of considerable strength under the weight of unevenness and overambition all the more frustrating, but the fact of the matter is that there is a lot of heart in this film, and you can challenge such inspiration for only so long before compellingness gets through, entertaining, engaging and ultimately rewarding as a both modernist and old-fashioned drama. In conclusion, the old-fashioned touches get to be questionable, and don't exactly organically gel with the more contemporaneous touches, as surely as the overwhelming amount of thematic depth and plot layers don't always elude unevenness, or, for that matter, expository limitations, and with these shortcomings going emphasized by a certain sense of ambition, the final product falls short of what it wants to be and perhaps could have been, but through a captivating artistic style that goes built on excellent score work by Elmer Bernstein, immersive art direction by Peter Rogness and lush cinematography by Edward Lachman, as well as through a unique and complex story that goes brought to life by thoughtful writing and direction, and compelling performances, - particularly those by Dennis Haysbert, Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore - Todd Haynes' "Far From Heaven" is left to stand as an entertaining, when not thoroughly engaging and modern interpretation of questionable relationships during a less modern era. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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