Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Indie Review: Far From Heaven (2002)
Watching This Marvelous Work Of Art Is Like A Trip To Movie 'Heaven'
I remember after I saw Pleasantville, I said how I wished I could live in the 50's since there were plenty of soda/cheeseburger joints with jukeboxes and people seemed to live simpler lifestyles. However, after watching Far From Heaven, I sort of wish I didn't because of society's stance on blacks and gays. The film demonstrates that stance, yet tells it in such a beautiful and less patronizing way.
Far From Heaven is a story set in 50's suburban Connecticut about a housewife named Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore). Cathy's seemingly simple and well-adjusted life slowly becomes chaotic once she realizes that her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) is a closeted homosexual and she forms a bond with her black gardener named Raymond (Dennis Haysbert).
Where do I begin? I'll start off with the cinematography. It is B-E-A-utiful with such an impressive color scheme. I thought it was amazing how the cinematographer Edward Lachman uses different colors to follow the characters around. For example, whenever the main characters are emotionally going to a skeptical place, they are surrounded by the color green, like the scene where Frank goes into a gay bar. Plus, the scenes where the color blue is present are the ones where Cathy or Frank are in a gloomy or depressed state. If you are looking to become a cinematographer, you should put this high, and I mean HIGH, on your watch list. You will be in movie heaven and want to take notes because this is not only an actor's or writer's movie, but very much a director/cinematographer's movie as director Todd Haynes and cinematographer Edward Lachman let the colors tell the story. As soon as the film started, the thing that I immediately fell in love with was the colors.
Next, I'll get into the acting. First off, Julianne Moore's performance is an absolute masterclass. She is just phenomenal as a suburban housewife who is very confined on the surface yet once the events in the film start to unravel she struggles to look beneath the surface as she has trouble making sense of her husband's "urges" and struggles to bond with her black gardener. However, Moore doesn't play up the melodrama as whenever she undergoes a dramatic episode, she does it in a more quietly devastating way. Dennis Quaid is equally as phenomenal as Frank, Cathy's husband who struggles to make sense of his own urges and tries to suppress them for the sake of his family and his job. The other Dennis in the film, Dennis Haysbert, is astounding and plays his role as the gardener Raymond with a rather quiet dignity. Patricia Clarkson, who plays Cathy's neighbor and confidante Eleanor, is a strong supporting presence when she is on screen as she pulls off a character who tries to make sense of Cathy's troubling decline, yet not naively. To me, the film is about trying to make sense or look beneath the surface as Raymond once points out, which Cathy struggles with since, as I said, she is as confined as her fellow affluent townspeople that are out-of-touch.
Since the affluent town in the film is so confined that the people live in their own bubble, plenty of them are slightly out-of-touch when it comes to dealing with minorities and homosexuality. I loved how the film took the two social issues of racism and homosexuality and didn't portray them in a rather patronizing way. The film didn't have to spoon feed to the audience that racism is bad. It just showed that back then, when a black person, or "negro" as they were referred to, would communicate with a white person, people would murmur. Plus, in the 50's, people viewed homosexuality as an illness, but the film just had Frank himself talk about beating "this thing" like it is an illness and no manipulative scenes of gays being beaten or anything like that. We are just shown that people fear what they don't understand.
Overall, Far From Heaven is a perfectly realized tale of race, homosexuality, and social class weaved into one. Its direction is beautiful and has you glued to the screen thanks to its colors. The acting is simply phenomenal and the story is quite powerful. Like I said, if you want to go into directing or cinematography, be sure to give this one a watch and take notes. But whether you like to study or just watch films for the sake of watching films, I would highly recommend you give this a watch. It is, as I said the minute it was over, perfect.