Far From Heaven
Julianne Moore appears to have found a niche for herself lately, playing unhappy women in seemingly idyllic 1950 settings. In addition to her role as a pregnant housewife who contemplates suicide in The Hours, she plays the part of Cathy Whitaker, a Connecticut woman who balances marriage and motherhood with a growing list of social engagements and community involvement that earns her a spotlight on the local society page.
Nestled in the comfort of suburbia, Cathy's love of art shows and dinner parties keep her in step with the rest of Hartford's middle class socialites with whom she shares afternoon drinks and gossip. She also ensures that her two children (Ryan Ward, Lindsay Andretta) grow up properly mannered, giving their father his expected respect. But despite her freshly starched aprons and well-manicured lawn, her perfect life shows signs of strain. Night after night, her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid), edgy and quick-tempered, stays late at the office while she makes excuses for him at home. Finally faced with irrefutable facts, she watches her ideal world shatter.
Unable to confess the devastating revelations even to her closest friend (Patricia Clarkson), she turns outside her circle of associates for comfort. However confiding in her African-American gardener, Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert), proves to be too much for the socially conscious townsfolk who spurn her actions. Likewise, her colored maid, Sybil (Viola Davis), experiences a modicum of discomfort at the budding friendship with the handyman. While rumors fly, Cathy tries to maintain her standing among her peers as she scrapes together the fragments of her life.
Filmed in brilliant color and acting styles reminiscent of 1950's movies, this film exposes the dark secrets that lurk behind the hedged front yards of the town's elite. Along with an interracial relationship, the theme of homosexual love is also portrayed including a brief, passionate kiss. Both associations are considered taboo, but they are met with varying responses from the townspeople including shocked acceptance, exclusion and violence.
Although the film offers discussion starters with older teens on topics like racism, discrimination and sexual orientation, the storyline is expertly woven to place the topic of racial prejudice into the same frame as the acceptance of homosexuality. While both issues are depicted in the negative light accurate for the time period, this film is definitely intended to solicit sympathy for the characters facing these far from heavenly dilemmas.