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Movie Review: Far From Heaven

Story: Holy Mamie Eisenhower! Forbidden love, forbidden lifestyle, forbidden thoughts. These are just some of the issues that director - writer Todd Haynes (Safe, Velvet Goldmine) covers in this terrific homage to the 1950s movies by Douglas Sirk and Ross Hunter such as All That Heaven Allows, Imitation of Life and Magnificent Obsession.

The action takes place in 1957s Hartford, Connecticut (although actually filmed in NJ). A seemingly perfect suburban family slowly unravels before our eyes while trying desperately to put on a good face for the all seeing, all gossiping community that surrounds them. Director Haynes handles what could easily have become a spoof in lesser hands with grace, dignity and sensitivity. The issues of homosexuality, marital dysfunction and race relations are explored without resorting to stereotypical behavior. These on screen characters are all so terribly alone and somewhat detached in the charade that their lives are all a part of - it was all so fascination to watch - and I could only sigh with relief that those days are long gone.

This film worked for me on many levels. It enveloped me because of the many components that went into making it a visually aesthetic masterpiece. Edward Lachman's cinematography reminded me of the old Big Ben Puzzles with those glorious larger than life colors of the many pieces of the puzzle. The costumes by Sandy Powell were delicious. How many of you out there remember those old crinolines?

This film is a piece of our American history. This is not the street where Ward and June Cleaver lived on...or is it? Just what were Wally and the Beav doing in their rooms all of the time? And Father Knows Best? - Not in this film, that's for sure!

Acting: Superlative. In lesser hands this would have become more like a John Waters spoof. Julianne Moore was fabulous. She radiated (she was really pregnent during the filming) at all of the right moments and was able to allow her character to emote without rage. She has great range and has a brilliant career ahead of her. Dennis Quaid's character was the only one allowed to 'fall apart.' He was terrific. Dennis Haysbert played a character that was human, rich in depth, fallible and strong. All of the supporting characters were right on the money.

Critters: Alas, none. Perhaps this repressed '50's community was too frightened to have critters running free in the streets. It might have made for a public, untidy mess.

Food: Lamb Chops, peas, mention of milk and cookies and unidentifiable mystery piles on the plates. Lots of booze.

Visual Art: A visual feast. There is a pivotal scene that takes place at an art exhibit showing 'modern' art, featuring Miro and Picasso. The paintings and prints in the featured homes were guaranteed to be so bland as not to be noticed by anyone. Fabulous attention to detail. I swore that one of the bedroom lamps was in my parent's house.

Soundtrack: Fabulous soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein. There were appropriate crescendos and mood pieces to highlight the on-screen drama. A perfect blend.

Opening Titles: Terrific sequence that puts you right into the mid '50s.

Theater Audience: Packed with a wide assortment of folks of color, all sexual preference and ages.

Quirky Meter: 2

Squirm Scale: The repression of the characters made me squirm. It is hard to look at this generation and not squirm at was just around the corner for them when the 60's arrived.

Predictability Level: Medium

Oscar Worthy: Yes.

Nit Picking: No nits to pick. They wee not allowed in the 50s - too squeaky clean.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure. For some terrific other Julianne Moore films how about renting: The Shipping News, An Ideal Husband, Cookie's Fortune, Magnolia, The End of the Affair, The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights.

Length: 1 hour and 50 minutes