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far-from-heaven-3Simply put Far From Heaven is the best movie of the year so far. Director Todd Haynes’ tribute to the “women’s films” of the 1950s shines, bringing forth issues that outraged America in 1957 when the film is set, and continue to rub people the wrong way 45 years later. Cathy (Julianne Moore) and Frank (Dennis Quaid) have the picture perfect life. He’s an executive for the (fictional) television giant Magnatech, she’s the perfectly coiffed housewife. Imagine Ozzie and Harriett. Everything is perfect until one day she finds him, shirtless, in the arms of another man. She takes solace in the company of her handsome African-American gardener Raymond (Dennis Haysbert), which sends shock waves through her snooty and prejudiced Connecticut community. Now picture Ozzie and Harriett as imagined by Norman Rockwell after a three day drinking binge. Haynes maintains a feeling of melodrama throughout the film, but never becomes campy. His even handed approach lends an air of hyper-reality to the movie, as if we are watching real life through a looking glass. It’s a stunning achievement – emotional but not ironic, simple but very effective. A beautiful score by veteran Elmer Bernstein and Mark Friedberg’s amazing production design enhance an already wonderful movie experience. Julianne Moore gives the performance of her career as a housewife who watches her idyllic world crumble around her, while Dennis Quaid lets go of the macho posturing that has informed so many of his recent roles, and plays Frank as a tortured soul who doesn’t really understand why his life turned out the way it did. Dennis Haysbert (best known as presidential candidate David Palmer on 24) gives a smart, dignified performance as Raymond the gardener. Highly recommended.

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