January 18, 2010

Far from Heaven (2002)

My Ratings:
Production Design (wardrobe/hair+makeup & set design & milieu) = 10
Performances/Direction = 8.5

As we trudge through the gray dreariness of winter, I thought it would be a nice idea to infuse a bit of life back to this blog with a film that is brimming with rich, vibrant colors. Behold, the award-winning Far from Heaven starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Dennis Haysbert!

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Far from Heaven is set in 1950s Connecticut and centers on "Cathy Whitaker" (Julianne Moore), who is the picture perfect, socially esteemed suburban housewife of a successful advertising executive (Dennis Quaid). With a beautiful home, two obedient children, a shiny automobile, and even an obedient black maid, Cathy's world is the stuff Town & Country articles are made of.

In fact, to emphasize this, here she is being interviewed and photographed for the local paper:

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The film is set in autumn and takes full cinematic advantage of the luscious colors of the season. In this particularly memorable scene below, Cathy and her friends are wearing beautiful, coordinating shades of russet, rose and umber.

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However, the autumnal setting, which provides the film with a vibrant and rich colour palette that the costumes and set designs play off throughout, hints at the decadence beneath the surface beauty of this suburban life. It should come as little surprise that quicker than you can say John Cheever, Cathy’s hermetically sealed universe is torn asunder by twinned-revelations: Her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) has been leading a "secret life", while Cathy has simultaneously found herself drawn to her black gardener Raymond Deacon (Dennis Haysbert). [source]

Below is Cathy's husband Frank cruising seedy bars while she thinks he's working late at the office:
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Here below is Cathy and Frank, surrounded by their friends, at a cocktail party. It's interesting to note that Julianne Moore was six months pregnant when she filmed this movie. Her baby bump wasn't that obvious except for in a couple of scenes like this one where if you look closely enough, you may notice a wider-than-expected waist.

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On the outside, everyone looks beautiful and happy.
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But the external glamour is offset by a dark undercurrent of emotional turmoil.
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Even though their relationship was entirely platonic at first, it was still seen as socially unacceptable for a white woman to be conversing on such "familiar" terms with a black man, especially in a public space.

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Nasty gossip soon spread throughout the town and Cathy and her family were quickly shunned by their so-called friends.
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love the white rimmed tangerine shades on Cathy
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I knew that Connecticut has a long history of being socially conservative and but I did not know that a few towns (Darian most notably) once upheld the "sundown" policy that forbade "people of color" (which at times included Jews) from staying within the town's borders after sundown. This film doesn't touch on this particular "law" but it does point to a very realistic portrayal of the segregation attitudes that were still rampant in the 1950s.

Some shots of the exterior and interior sets:

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mid-century furnishings:
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oriental figure lamps:
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an attempt at having a normal, happy Christmas morning:
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Some of my friends didn't "get" the movie and thought it was too exaggerated and reminiscent of the melodramas of 1950s. It's interesting to note that this was actually the director's intention! Todd Haynes was very much paying an homage to the films of Douglas Sirk, with an obvious nod to the 1955 picture All That Heaven Allows starring Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman (which was also about "forbidden love.")

I thought this movie was near perfect and Julianne Moore crafted an amazing, layered performance. Sure there script had some flaws and there a few minor scenes that did not ring true but the overall package was truly commendable.

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3 comments:

"All That Heaven Allows" is one of my favorite romance films! I love it! And that beautiful barn that Rock Hudson turned into his home with the large picture window and the snow coming down with the deer....just stunning.

Teacup Lane (Sandy)

omg these photos are amazing thanks so much! fabulous film: clothes, writing, acting & directing, photography, music.

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