Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5  
Far From Heaven (2003)

A throwback to 1950s melodrama, Todd Haynes' involving picture may sit uneasy on the palates of modern audiences, but it's a taste worth acquiring.

Writer-director Haynes has irked and delighted in equal measure, with the love 'em/hate 'em creations "Safe" and "Velvet Goldmine". "Far From Heaven" is typically odd.

Odd, simply because its form matches its content. It recreates button-down, post-war America using the cinematic conventions and values of the era itself.

That it does so without a trace of irony might befuddle some viewers, but is actually a great strength.

Were this simply a sly filmmaking experiment, it would be a pointless in-joke, but the story is played straight, and is all the more affecting for it.

Cathy and Frank Whitaker (Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid) are a seemingly content Connecticut couple, projecting such an image of suburban bliss that they front the advertising for Frank's company, as Mr and Mrs Magnatech.

But secrets simmer beneath. Frank drinks heavily to subdue his true self, while Cathy is drawn to the honesty and intelligence of her African-American gardener (Dennis Haysbert), setting tongues wagging around town.

Riffing off Douglas Sirk's acclaimed 1955 melodrama "All That Heaven Allows", Haynes explores sexual and racial prejudice, venturing into territory Sirk could only hint at.

Moore is perfect in the lead. Possibly the only contemporary actress able to submerge herself so completely into a role, she projects the grace and presence of a Golden Age star, but has the acting ability to cope when the fragile façade cracks to reveal a tumult of emotions.

Her terrific performance makes for moving moments, but it can't quite lend the curiously soulless final act the emotional resonance it requires.

Haynes opts for a realistic/pessimistic ending, which is apt but frustrating. Like the repressed characters themselves, the viewer longs for catharsis.

End Credits

Director: Todd Haynes

Writer: Todd Haynes

Stars: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson, Viola Davis, James Rebhorn

Genre: Drama

Length: 107 minutes

Cinema: 7 March 2003

Country: USA

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