Far From Heaven

Todd Haynes’s best feature to date–a provocative companion piece to his underrated Safe (1995), which also starred Julianne Moore as a lost suburban housewife but is otherwise quite different. This brilliantly and comprehensively captures the look, feel, and sound of glamorous 50s tearjerkers like All That Heaven Allows, not to mock or feel superior to them but to say new things with their vocabulary. The story, set in 1957 and accompanied by a classic Elmer Bernstein score, concerns a traditional if well-to-do “homemaker” who falls in love with her black gardener (a superb performance by Dennis Haysbert) around the time that she discovers her husband (Dennis Quaid) is a closeted homosexual. Frankly, I find this movie more emotionally powerful, more truthful about the 50s, and more meaningful than any of the Technicolor Douglas Sirk pictures it evokes, even though it trades in obvious artifice in a way that the originals never did. Though technically an independent feature, this is in fact the best Hollywood movie around, telling the kind of story that might have been told half a century ago if a contemporary filmmaker had been transported back to the studio system and given a free hand. Don’t miss it. 107 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Esquire, Landmark’s Century Centre.

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