Far From Heaven - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Far From Heaven Reviews

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½ July 20, 2016
Good performances all round, catapulting Julianne Moore into the limelight whilst Dennis Quaid showed us that he is capable of acting after all. This has the feel of a true story but I don't think it is. It deals with the topics of race and homosexuality in 50's America
Super Reviewer
March 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
January 24, 2016
I felt like checking out some of Todd Hayne's films after listening to him on the WTF podcast. I really liked this film, but it was definitely as the look and feel of a film from the 1950s or 60s, which is quite an accomplishment. The performances by the 3 leads is just great; it's just too bad everything I see Dennis Haysbert I can't help but think of President Palmer from '24'. The film deals with some tough issues, especially for the time period the movie is set in. Overall, I really liked 'Far From Heaven' and really reminds me how much progress we've made since the 1950s.
January 10, 2016
A sweet film about prejudices.
December 25, 2015
Far From Heaven proves that the melodrama subgenre is dead by choice, not by lack of talent to make it. Every scene in Haynes' film explodes with cynicism, irresistible tension and utter disillusionment, a product of a crafted lens with attention to detail and extreme sensitivity to human emotion. The film soars with social commentary, understanding of the era and, of course, fantastic performances.
December 20, 2015
2015-12-19 very well acted all around
December 18, 2015
While accurately portraying 1950s America, this stylish, colourful, excessive, restrained, slow paced and melodramatic movie kept reminding me of daytime soaps. The film deals with various issues such as racism, bigotry, and unapproved love. Although captivating in some regards, I kept wanting more and unfortunately the ending didn't deliver it to me. 1001
October 15, 2015
reely manages to capture the essence of Douglas Sirk films-how do I know I'm a BIG fan of Sirk movies and this comes the closest to the master's work.
September 18, 2015
Amazing acting in a very, very sad movie/story.
½ September 11, 2015
"Far From Heaven" only speaks in sweeping symphonies, cherry red Technicolor, and postcard optimism - it is gargantuan in its emotion, pleasing in its artifice. To say it is an homage to Douglas Sirk and his 1950s soap operatic conglomerates would be an understatement: though released in 2002, it is so authentic in its nuclear family-meets-trouble melodrama one could swear it were released in 1957 if it starred Jane Wyman instead of the inimitable Julianne Moore.
The latter, putting on her most happily repressed face, headlines as Cathy Whitaker, an archetypal wholesome homemaker who seemingly has the perfect life. Her husband, Frank (Dennis Quaid), is the successful owner of a TV company, her children shining examples of the "Aw, shucks!" cliché. The family, unquestionably, leads their wealthy social circle, housewives looking up to Cathy like she's a real-life Donna Reed, husbands thoroughly jealous of Frank's marital good luck.
But things aren't as enviably flawless as they first appear. Though they've been happily married for years, Frank is becoming increasingly tortured by his hidden homosexuality - he's been able to keep it locked inside for his entire life, but as the film opens, he's wearing down. It doesn't take long before he visits a gay bar, before Cathy stops by his office late one night to bring him dinner and discovers him kissing another man.
With her seamless personal life crumbling before her very eyes, Cathy is surprised to find herself progressively attracted to her gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert), a black man committed to such a crushing job because the harmful segregation of the decade hardly allows for him to use his business degree in the real world. While most of the predominantly white town prefers to pretend that he doesn't exist, Cathy is infatuated by his charming eloquence - he presents her with a point of view completely foreign to her. As her marriage races to its last legs and the town begins viciously talking, Cathy is forced to consider whether pursuing such a controversial relationship is worth risking her seemingly invincible reputation.
Todd Haynes isn't interested in making a new kind of 1950s melodrama; though he stirs in taboos aplenty (you can't release a film in 2002 and expect the usual vintage subtleties to work efficiently), every aspect is astonishing in its well-versed mimicry. Purposefully, the sets look like sets; the music, massively melodic and dramatic, speaks for the characters when manners forbid them to divulge their true feelings; the color palette, specifically planned by Haynes during the conceptual process (green and black are used during scenes of anxiety, vibrant autumn colors spread about throughout moments of clarity), is breathtakingly identical to the Technicolor pigmentation of the filmmaking era. One could watch the film simply for its emotional content; but for cinephiles with a fetish for Douglas Sirk, it's a goldmine of pitch-perfect homage.
Its complete lack of irony and subtlety makes the photographic lust pop, its storyline, its acting, ripple through the body - there's a reason why "Written on the Wind" and "Imitation of Life" are such classics: the over-the-top, chintzy dramatizations are just too cinematic to resist on a sympathetic level. Haynes's remarkable dedication to stock dialogue allows for the underlying emotional context to sizzle; as Cathy inserts pet-names and breathy coos in-between each word for the sake of appearing like she's the perfect wife, we can increasingly see that it's all part of a façade that conceals her inner intricacies, which, during most of them film, are being torn apart. By never getting to express her dissatisfaction through dialogue, Moore's performance is heightened, Haynes's screenplay all the more deceivingly complex.
It touches on the social issues of the 1950s (race most predominantly, homosexuality at a close second) with gusto films of the decade were not allowed to discuss, and yet "Far From Heaven" never feels like a modernization. It, instead, is an expansion of the artistic and cerebral ideas of the luscious subgenre. Moore is fantastic as a woman perhaps more real than Dorothy Malone or Lana Turner ever were; Haysbert and Quaid are excellent as the men she holds close to her heart but only lead her to nowhere. No matter where she turns, Cathy Whitaker will never be content. But her film long predicament is compulsively watchable, and as long as her life is lensed as if it were a part of an unusually decadent Photoplay session, that's good enough for me.
½ June 20, 2015
Julianna Moore should have won the Oscar for her role in this movie
June 14, 2015
This movie BORED me to tears....melodramatic mess.
½ June 14, 2015
Well executed for the amount of detail, shallow and deep.
May 17, 2015
Embarrassingly bad - almost laughable attempt to clone a Douglas Sirk classic. I don't think it could have been much worse had Todd Haynes tried to
make a dud. I persuaded a black American friend to watch it with me and had to spend the rest of the evening apologizing. I cringed as poor Mr Haysbert had to speak ridiculous lines in the dullest attempt at "stylizing" I have ever seen.
½ May 14, 2015
Interesting story, but the way it's executed is quite corny. Might just be the awful dime store novel score. I get that they were trying to recreate an old aesthetic, but it just doesn't work here.
March 21, 2015
Terrible, cliche and unrealistic movie with an excruciatingly forced plot and the completely wrong musical score and really cliche acting. So, so bad.
March 11, 2015
Truly nails the 50's-era-movie vibe, down to every tiny visual detail... and a compelling, multi-layered story to boot.
½ March 2, 2015
Suburbia is a subject that has been tackled in numerous novels and films over the decades, and most of them have the same general message that the inhabitants of suburbia, despite the happiness on the surface, are actually troubled people. FAR FROM HEAVEN is really no different in that regard. It is a period piece set in 1950's New Hampshire, and revolves around a (supposedly) happy married couple played by Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid. To avoid any plot specifics I'll just say that the film deals with issues of racism and homosexuality through the lens and attitudes of 1950's America. It is also directed by Todd Haynes, well known for his other films with deal with gay culture and issues. Even though this is the first film I've seen by him, I would imagine that this film is very toned down from he did previously, given the PG-13 rating. One thing the film does really well is take a well-worn topic, but treat it with such dead-face sincerity that is almost comes off as a parody. Yet, this film really isn't that funny. In fact, it provoked little emotional response out of me in general other than the occasional bemused chuckle. While some might count this as a negative, I don't necessarily see it that way because I feel like this film's goal is to emulate a style of film and filmmaking rather than to comment on it in a postmodern way. The style of film I believe this film takes its cues from is the 1950's melodrama, e.g., PEYTON PLACE. Todd Haynes really showed an affection for this era in the overall design and look of the film, which has this idyllic quality to it. The production design, sets, costumes, etc. were all stylized in such a way that it made me feel like I was watching a film from the 1950's. Even the acting and line delivery was ever so slightly stilted to give off such a vibe. However, the one element that brought everything together was the beautiful score by Elmer Bernstein which lent an air of longing and yearning that complemented the film's thematic concerns quite nicely. Overall, FAR FROM HEAVEN doesn't have a unique story and the fact that it doesn't have much below the surface while at the same time portraying a milieu famous for being shallow is kind of ironic. Still, it is lovingly crafted and features some fine performances from its cast.
February 8, 2015
To the outside world, the Whitakers have a perfect 1950s American home-life. Frank is a successful local businessman while, wife, Cathy is the quintessential mother and housewife, spending her days preparing for parties and tending to the needs of her family. However, this fragile veneer is shattered one night when Cathy discovers her husband has a secret life that becomes an irresistible compulsion. This movie is a closely observed character study of a woman who's life is irreversibly shaken and it is beautifully done. The whole story is played out against the backdrop of the prejudices of the time and, despite this in many ways being a slight tale, it is also a profound one. Cathy's friends, all society ladies, show their cruelty and shallowness as the whispers are passed around the community as the plot unfolds and she is wrongly accused of breaking the taboos prevalent at the time. Julianne Moore gives a perfect performance as Cathy, making dialogue that could seem stilted and false come alive with deeper meaning. Dennis Quaid plays the part of Frank with enough vulnerability but isn't really given enough to do to make his predicament truly deserving of sympathy. The strongest male lead is taken by Dennis Haysbert who plays the intelligent, gentle Raymond, the gardener who strikes up a friendship with Cathy. The whole movie looks stunning with the autumnal colours of Connecticut forming a background that almost becomes a character in itself to the on-screen action. 1950s American has seldom looked more ravishing or been so sinister as it is here and director Todd Haynes is to be congratulated for that. Where I feel that the film does fall down slightly is that at the ending, I really felt there was so much more to be told about the lives of the three main protagonists and so was left feeling a little cheated by the way things hang in the air.
December 30, 2014
this movie doesn't sell you dreams. it sells you reality. even the romance will sell you nothing such happy tale. it's about living in the era when homosexuality and racism were bound to be the biggest issue and shame. the ending of this movie is one of the strongest ending I've ever seen.
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