It seems films that touch on any aspect of humanism, welfare and equality are very much en vogue. In the past few years, films such as Pleasantville, Monster’s Ball and Boys Don’t Cry, have been all the rave. The black-white relationship and homosexuality are two themes commonly used in these recent artistic endeavors.
Far From Heaven is no different. It explores the same themes, although one may argue that the approach is somewhat innovative.
Set in the 1950s, and filmed as though its production took place in the same era, the movie starts out with a perfect nuclear family and ends without one.
Julianne Moore plays the mother and wife, Kathy Whitaker, who accidentally walks in on her husband kissing another man.
Dennis Quaid is Frank Whitaker, the confused father and husband who just realized that this “sickness” cannot be cured by any of the methods proposed to him, such as electroshock aversion or hormonal injections.
Kathy’s only solace is not, as she expects, in her rich and snobby friends, but in her gardener, who happens to be black. Brilliantly portrayed by Dennis Haysbert, Raymond Deagan has just replaced his deceased father as the family gardener. As he and Kathy become friends, gossip starts to fly around town of despicable actions between the two.
The vivid use of colors gives the audience something to enjoy, until they realize this is just a poor metaphor for diversity and why one should not judge based on color.
The creators’ attempt to mimic the cinematic style of the ’50s is noteworthy. Although they stray from the formula by discussing themes of deeper significance, their effort is accomplished fairly well.
The performances are impressive, though certainly the best is that of Haysbert. He plays a quiet man whose attempt at integration is harshly rejected by both black and white societies. He acts with emotion through which the feelings of hope, concern, anger and compassion show clearly and distinctly.
The movie as a whole lacks significant zeal and vitality. It seems like a typical representation of human fight against the odds, but its subject matter is one that is sure to make it an Oscar contender — the Academy loves movies about oppression and an individual’s crusade against it. The overly didactic manner in which these crusades are presented will be an easy part to overlook in favor of the crusades themselves.
Knowing the Academy, this film is sure to be a winner.
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