Far From Heaven was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Original Screenplay, Original Score, Cinematography and Best Actress Julianne Moore. With four Oscar nominations, I expected a halfway decent movie. No one told me that Far From Heaven is one of the most boring movies of 2002.
Julianne Moore stars as a housewife in the 1950's who's life is turned upside down when she walks in on her husband (Dennis Quaid) kissing another man. He is quickly assigned a psychologist to deal with the situation and on the surface, she seems to be taking it well, but obviously things are never going to be the same again. To make matters more interesting, she has found a lot of similarity with her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert), despite the social stigma against interracial relationships, even friendships.
The main problem with Far From Heaven, as already stated, is that it just plain boring. It runs for nearly two hours (thankfully no longer) with little to show for it; there a couple good dramatic scenes, but basically, the entire film is so reserved, just like the time period, that very little actually happens. It seems as though director Todda Haynes was so obsessed in bringing back the time period that he forgot to create deep characters.
Julianne Moore, as mentioned earlier, was nominated for Best Actress (she was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her much superior performance in The Hours, in which she also played a 1950's housewife). I don't see why. While I think Julianne Moore is a terrific actress and much deserving of an Oscar at some point in her life, I was expecting much more from her here. She isn't bad, but I was expecting the movie to delve deeper into her character; I never felt as though the audience gets to really see how she feels. Sure, she cries a few times, but anyone can do that.
I was also disappointed by Dennis Haysbert's character. He is excellent as President of the United States on the hit television show "24" (one of my favorites), but his powerful persona does not work so well as a gardener in the 1950's. There was just something about him that didn't seem right; his mannerisms and choice of words didn't fit the era.
The one really good performance is delivered by Dennis Quaid. He was good in The Rookie but he is excellent here, and really the most interesting character of the movie. In fact, I would have liked the story to focus around him more than anyone else, because the decisions in his life seemed to be much more difficult than those in Moore's. Far From Heaven seems to fluff over Quaid's thought processes as he is forced to decide between his family - namely his children - and his homosexual urges. It's one thing to be a homosexual, but it's a completely different thing to abandon one's children. Why did Quaid make such a decision? I would have liked to see more.
Furthermore, there were other things that seemed a bit off. Some of the dialogue in the movie seemed weak; it was as though Haynes (who also wrote the film) was trying so hard to capture the dialect of the era that he forgot to write lines that made sense. Literally, some of the things the characters say in the movie make absolutely no sense. Note that the screenplay was nominated for an Oscar.
Another nomination that I don't agree with is the score. While it is an impressive score on its own, and it would have worked just fine for a suspense film, when applied to a low-key drama such as Far From Heaven, it makes little sense. Some moments in the movie play out like some grand scene, even if it just involves a facial expression on one of the characters. The music isn't bad, but its application is terrible.
Far From Heaven is an immensely disappointing drama that has little to show for it, except for four Oscar nominations that it doesn't even deserve.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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