Revisiting FAR FROM HEAVEN: Reprise
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are times when watching a film from the past serves as a reminder of just how fine that film is despite the presence of similar films made after the theater run of the film in question. Such is most assuredly the case with FAR FROM HEAVEN, a very important film that addresses racial and sexual prejudices from as recently as 1958, a time when many of us were oblivious to what was happening in the tough world outside our insulated arena. Todd Haynes both wrote and directed this study of the cruelty of prejudice in a manner that is disconcertingly sterile on the surface - a surface that the period of the 1950s cloaked everything with that should have been matters of intense public discussion and correction.
Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore in a radiant, profoundly sensitive performance) is the picture perfect, carefully groomed, crinolined wife of successful Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid), mother of two just right children, and plastic hostess for parties that include her proper friends - such as Eleanor Fine (Patricia Clarkson). Frank drinks too much, makes a few public scenes and it is apparent he is dealing with his private very secret demons: Frank is trying to live a perfect married life but his true physical desires are for men. Cathy copes, confides in her 'colored' gardener Raymond (Dennis Haysbert) and her 'colored' maid Sybil (Viola Davis). Cathy's friendship with Raymond, utterly innocent though it is, is the cause of immediate racial hysteria in the community of Hartford, Connecticut. Frank is having an affair with a man, Cathy discovers this and tries her best to understand, but when Frank comes home intoxicated and threatens Cathy about HER 'affair' with Raymond, the perfect bubble of this plastic marriage bursts. Cathy turns to Raymond for solace but both understand they are living in a time when they cannot be friends because of the racial difference: the core of their relationship is as pure a respectful and honest love as any Cathy has ever experienced. Frank finally confesses his homosexuality to Cathy, they decide to divorce, and Frank goes off to his lover, while Cathy finds some measure of solace in Raymond's honest friendship.
The period of the 1950s is crisply captured not only in the settings and clothes and cars, but also in the phrases of language used during that time: the script is on target. So much has happened since the time of the story of this film - Martin Luther King, Jr's 'We shall overcome' and the changes that started at Stonewall, both only ten years later - and yet we still suffer from the effects of unfounded, cruel prejudice on many levels. Films like FAR FROM HEAVEN should be seen frequently to 1) see how far we have come and 2) see how much further we have to go. Grady Harp, October 10"