Far From Heaven
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
Gerri Pare (Catholic News) calls it "an exquisite melodrama of the kind Sirk did best – but bringing out themes that were not as openly addressed in the movies of a half-century ago. [Haynes] respects his characters as they come up against societal barriers, and in focusing on their humanity has crafted a wistful, even poignant tale that lingers in the memory. The filmmaker however allows us to look at that 1950s society not with condescension based on our more 'sophisticated' contemporary perspective, but in a thoughtful way that prompts us to consider and hopefully reject our own prejudices."
Phil Boatwright addresses the film's exploration of prejudice against homosexuals: "While I certainly do not condone homosexuality, this film reminds us that our contempt must be toward sin, not those struggling with sin. The Pharisees were consumed with the law, but they knew nothing of God's grace, compassion or willingness to forgive and embrace sinners."
Regarding the film as a whole, he raves, "The look is gorgeous. The performances are engrossing. The direction, although often a little too coy and sometimes bordering on camp, is leisurely paced. And I think as viewers leave the theater they will be thoughtful of a time when bigotry was so poisonous that if a black child even dared to step into a 'white' pool, it would send such shockwaves that the pool would be evacuated. While reminding us of that period, the film subtly suggests we continue to examine feelings concerning racial strife."
Movieguide's critic says, "Unless you like eating propaganda for dinner, avoid this movie altogether." The reviewer continues, "Haynes unfolds this politically correct, liberal storyline in the packaging of a classic melodrama, hoping to draw in viewers by the film's aesthetic qualities and lure them into a deeper agreement with his anti-Christian, Romantic worldview."
Mainstream critics are enthralled by Todd Haynes's mastery of period style and the subtle nuances of his storytelling. Anthony Lane (The New Yorker) is quite impressed by its convincing portrayal of 1957: "The music is right, the décor is right, the pitcher of Daiquiris is right … Every leaf on every tree has been personally schooled to redden and drop in the approved late-fifties manner. Everything from the crane shots to the genteel fades, as slow as twilight, shows a director hitting a new high in pastiche, and, if you are a film buff,
I'll share my thoughts on the film next week.from Film Forum, 11/21/02
Film Forum posted early reviews of
Most modern moviegoers don't remember Sirk. They're more familiar with films and shows that emphasize the dysfunction behind the family photo. Thus, they'll be quick to pick up that nothing is as it seems. The only suspense lies in guessing what manner of monster will rear its ugly head.
In this case, there are a host of monsters. The community is rife with prejudice, sexual and racial. Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) seems like the ideal wife and mother, with all her wishes granted. But her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) is a closeted homosexual. Cathy herself, perpetually lonely behind that smile, suffers from spousal neglect, and thus finds it difficult to resist her attraction to the handsome, kind hearted black gardener Raymond (Dennis Haysbert.) Repressed passions make the characters walking time bombs. Their friends, an array of smiling upper-class villains, keep busy sharpening their tongues for vicious gossip.
The result is an elaborately crafted film with a subtle but honorable agenda. Haynes seems uninterested in defending or condemning sexual preferences. He focuses instead on peeling back the façade of a trouble-free neighborhood to expose the problem of prejudice, the damage done by infidelity, and how those who show love and compassion for persecuted minorities will be persecuted themselves. The film is resonant with insight, but paints a bleak picture of a cold and lonely existence.
Ebert says the film is "like the best and bravest movie of 1957. Its themes, values and style faithfully reflect the social melodramas of the 1950s, but it's bolder, and says out loud what those films only hinted at."
My full review is at Looking Closer.from Film Forum, 12/05/02
from Film Forum, 12/12/02
But Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) feels differently. "Haynes'