from Film Forum, 11/14/02

Far From Heaven stars Julianne Moore as a model housewife, according to 1957 standards, who discovers that her husband is an ashamed homosexual. She seeks solace in a relationship with a black friend. But this is as frowned on as homosexuality, and in the 1950s, many dealt with such difficult issues by pretending they did not exist. Writer-director Todd Haynes (Safe) pays tribute to filmmaker Douglas Sirk, famous for such 1950s favorites as All That Heaven Allows and Imitation of Life.

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, Far from Heaven will be an all-body massage."

I'll share my thoughts on the film next week.

from Film Forum, 11/21/02

Film Forum posted early reviews of Far From Heavenlast week, but the film drew more praise and attention this week. It looks to be a major Oscar contender.