Far from Heaven

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Far From Heaven
Far from heaven.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Todd Haynes
Produced by Jody Allen
Christine Vachon
Written by Todd Haynes
Starring Julianne Moore
Dennis Quaid
Dennis Haysbert
Patricia Clarkson
Viola Davis
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Edited by James Lyons
Production
company
Distributed by Focus Features
Release dates
  • November 22, 2002 (2002-11-22)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $13.5 million[2]
Box office $29,027,914[2]

Far from Heaven is a 2002 American drama film written and directed by Todd Haynes and starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, and Patricia Clarkson.

The film tells the story of Cathy Whitaker, a 1950s housewife, living in wealthy suburban Connecticut as she sees her seemingly perfect life begin to fall apart. It is done in the style of a Douglas Sirk film (especially 1955's All That Heaven Allows and 1959's Imitation of Life), dealing with complex contemporary issues such as race, gender roles, sexual orientation and class.

Plot[edit]

In 1957 suburban Connecticut, Cathy Whitaker appears to be the perfect wife, mother, and homemaker. Cathy is married to Frank, a successful executive at Magnatech, a company selling television advertising. One evening Cathy receives a phone call from the local police who are holding her husband. He says it's all a mix up but they won't let him leave alone. Frank has in fact been exploring the underground world of gay bars in Hartford, Connecticut. One day, Cathy spies an unknown black man walking through her yard. He turns out to be Raymond Deagan, the son of Cathy's late gardener.

Frank often finds himself forced to stay late at the office, swamped with work. One night when Frank is working late, Cathy decides to bring his dinner to him at the office. She walks in on him passionately kissing another man. Frank confesses having had "problems" as a young man, and agrees to sign up for conversion therapy. However, his relationship with Cathy is irreparably strained, and he turns to alcohol.

Cathy runs into Raymond at a local art show, and initiates a discussion with him about modern painting, to the consternation of a few onlookers. One night, after a party, Frank attempts to make love to Cathy. He is unable to become aroused and strikes Cathy when she tries to console him.

Cathy decides to spend a day with Raymond. They go to a bar in the black neighborhood in which she is the only white person present. Raymond toasts her with a drink saying "Here's to being the only one". They are sighted together by one of Cathy's neighbors, who immediately tells everyone. The town is soon ablaze with gossip about the two of them. This becomes evident when Cathy attends a ballet performance by her young daughter and the mothers of the other girls prevent them from socializing with Cathy's daughter. Cathy's husband is also furious. Cathy goes to find Raymond to tell them that their friendship isn't "plausible".

Over Christmas and New Years, Cathy goes on a vacation with her husband to Miami to take their minds off of things. At the hotel, Frank has another sexual encounter with a young man.

Back in Hartford, three white boys taunt and assault Raymond's daughter, Sarah. Frank tells Cathy that he has found a man who loves him and wants to be with him and seeks a divorce from Cathy. When Cathy eventually finds out that the victim of the attack was Raymond's daughter, Sarah, she goes to the Deagan home to find them packing up and moving to Baltimore. At one point when he addresses her as "Mrs. Whitaker", she begs him to call her Cathy. She suggests they can be together now that she is to be single. Raymond declines, saying "I've learned my lesson about mixing the two worlds." In the final scene, Cathy goes to the train station to see Raymond off and say her silent goodbye to him, waving to him as the train moves out of the station.

Cast[edit]

Haynes wrote the script envisioning Moore and James Gandolfini as Cathy and Frank, respectively. While Moore joined the project immediately, Gandolfini was unavailable due to The Sopranos. Haynes' next choice, Russell Crowe, believed that the role was too small, and Jeff Bridges wanted too much money.[3]

Style[edit]

According to the DVD director's commentary Far from Heaven is made in the style of many 1950s films, notably those of Douglas Sirk. Haynes created color palettes for every scene in the film and was careful and particular in his choices. Haynes emphasizes experience with color in such scenes as one in which Cathy, Eleanor, and their friends are all dressed in reds, oranges, yellows, browns, and greens. Haynes also plays with the color green, using it to light forbidden and mysterious scenes. He employs this effect both in the scene in which Frank visits a gay bar and when Cathy goes to the restaurant in a predominantly black neighborhood.[4]

Haynes also uses shots and angles that would have been standard in Sirk's films and era. Cinematographer Edward Lachman created the 1950s "look" with the same type of lighting techniques and lighting equipment (incandescent), and employs lens filters that would have been used in a 1950s-era melodrama. The script employs over-the-top, melodramatic dialogue, and Elmer Bernstein's score is reminiscent of those he had composed 40 and 50 years earlier. The sound, done by Kelley Baker, also uses a lot of foley to make more prominent the sound of rustling clothes and loud footsteps, a sound technique that was used more in 1950s-era film.[4]

In the commentary, Haynes notes that he was also influenced by Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.[4] As in Fassbinder's film, in Far from Heaven Haynes portrays feelings of alienation and awkwardness. For example, instead of cutting to the next scene, Haynes sometimes lingers on a character for a few seconds longer than comfortable to the viewer, the same technique used by Fassbinder.[4]

Another feature is when Cathy drives her car through town. Rather than filming inside the car as it actually moves, the car is filmed still with artificial backgrounds seen through the windows, reminiscent of older films. On the DVD commentary, Haynes states that one of these scenes re-uses the artificial background first used in a scene from All That Heaven Allows.[4]

Reception[edit]

The film received positive critical reviews. It holds a 87% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 210 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The critical consensus states that "An exquisitely designed and performed melodrama, Far From Heaven earns its viewers' tears with sincerity and intelligence." The film was nominated for several Academy Awards: for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Julianne Moore), Best Original Screenplay (Todd Haynes), Best Cinematography (Edward Lachman), and Best Original Score (Elmer Bernstein). As an example of the film's favorable reception among critics, Cole Smithey wrote that the "contrast of gritty dramatic material against an idealized — read fascistic — social atmosphere, makes for an enthralling movie experience,"[5] while another critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, considers the film to be a companion piece to Haynes' 1995 Safe as both use "the same talented actress to explore suburban alienation in comparably gargantuan consumerist surroundings."[6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film did extraordinarily well in the Village Voice‍ '​s Film Critics' Poll of 2002, where Far from Heaven won for best picture, Moore for best lead performance and Haynes for best director and best original screenplay. Lachman's work in Far from Heaven also won best cinematography by a wide margin while Quaid, Clarkson, and Haysbert were all recognized for their supporting performances, placing second, fourth and ninth, respectively.[7]

Year Ceremony Category Recipients Result
2002 7th Satellite Awards Best Film - Drama Far From Heaven Won
Best Director Todd Haynes Won
Best Actress - Drama Julianne Moore Nominated
Best Supporting Actor - Drama Dennis Haysbert Won
Dennis Quaid Nominated
Best Screenplay - Original Todd Haynes Nominated
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Nominated
8th Critics' Choice Awards Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
9th Screen Actors Guild Awards Best Female Actor in a Leading Role Julianne Moore Nominated
Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role Dennis Quaid Nominated
18th Independent Spirit Awards Best Feature Far From Heaven Won
Best Director Todd Haynes Won
Best Female Lead Julianne Moore Won
Best Supporting Male Dennis Quaid Won
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Won
60th Golden Globe Awards Best Actress - Drama Julianne Moore Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Dennis Quaid Nominated
Best Screenplay Todd Haynes Nominated
Best Original Score Elmer Bernstein Nominated
75th Academy Awards Best Actress Julianne Moore Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Todd Haynes Nominated
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Nominated
Best Original Score Elmer Bernstein Nominated
2002 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Far From Heaven Nominated
Best Director Todd Haynes Nominated
Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Won
Best Music Score Elmer Bernstein Won
Best Production Design Mark Friedberg Nominated
2002 National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actress Patricia Clarkson Won
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Won
2002 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Far From Heaven Won
Best Director Todd Haynes Won
Best Actress Julianne Moore Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Dennis Quaid Won
Best Supporting Actress Patricia Clarkson Won
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards 2002 Best Actress Julianne Moore Nominated
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards 2002 Best Film Far From Heaven Won
Best Director Todd Haynes Won
Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Best Supporting Actor Dennis Quaid Won
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Won
Best Original Score Elmer Bernstein Won
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards 2002 Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Won
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards 2002 Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards 2002 Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
National Board of Review Awards 2002 Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Online Film Critics Society Awards 2002 Best Picture Far From Heaven Nominated
Best Director Todd Haynes Nominated
Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Best Supporting Actor Dennis Quaid Won
Best Original Screenplay Todd Haynes Won
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Won
Best Original Score Elmer Bernstein Won
Best Art Direction Peter Rogness
Ellen Christiansen
Won
Best Costume Design Sandy Powell Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards 2002 Best Film Far From Heaven Nominated
Best Director Todd Haynes Won
Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Best Supporting Actor Dennis Quaid Nominated
Best Screenplay - Original Todd Haynes Won
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Nominated
Best Original Score Elmer Bernstein Won
Best Production Design Peter Rogness
Ellen Christiansen
Nominated
Best Costume Design Sandy Powell Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards 2002 Best Film Far From Heaven Won
Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards 2002 Best Director Todd Haynes Won
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards 2002 Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Best Screenplay - Original Todd Haynes Won
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards 2002 Best Director Todd Haynes Nominated
Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Best Supporting Actor Dennis Quaid Nominated
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards 2002 Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards 2002 Best Actress Julianne Moore Won
Best Supporting Actor Dennis Haysbert Won
Writers Guild of America Awards 2002 Best Original Screenplay Todd Haynes Nominated

Soundtrack[edit]

Far from Heaven was the last film scored by Elmer Bernstein. The album's runtime is 42 minutes and 53 seconds.

  1. "Autumn in Connecticut" – 3:08
  2. "Mother Love" – 0:42
  3. "Evening Rest" – 1:52
  4. "Walking Through Town" – 1:49
  5. "Proof" – 1:01
  6. "The F Word" – 1:11
  7. "Party" – 0:55
  8. "Hit" – 2:42
  9. "Crying" – 1:11
  10. "Turning Point" – 4:46
  11. "Cathy and Raymond Dance" – 2:02
  12. "Disapproval" – 1:00
  13. "Walk Away" – 2:34
  14. "Orlando" – 0:56
  15. "Back to Basics" – 1:47
  16. "Stones" – 1:44
  17. "Revelation and Decision" – 4:21
  18. "Remembrance" – 1:56
  19. "More Pain" – 4:04
  20. "Transition" – 0:55
  21. "Beginnings" – 2:17

Musical adaptation[edit]

Theatrical songwriting team Scott Frankel and Michael Korie worked with Richard Greenberg on an Off Broadway-bound musical adaptation. The musical opened at Playwrights Horizons in Spring of 2013. Kelli O'Hara starred in the central role.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "FAR FROM HEAVEN (12A)". Entertainment Film Distributors. British Board of Film Classification. November 8, 2002. Retrieved August 17, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Far from Heaven at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ Vachon, Christine and Austin Bunn. A Killer Life Simon and Schuster, 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d e Far from Heaven DVD commentary track
  5. ^ Smithey, Cole (14 April 2013). "Far from Heaven — Classic Film Pick". Cole Smithey: The Smartest Film Critic in the World. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (22 November 2002). "Magnificent Repression [on Far from Heaven]". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  7. ^ Village Voice, January 1, 2003
  8. ^ Playbill.com, February 14, 2012

External links[edit]