Far From Heaven (0/10)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


Far From Heaven should have been entitled Far From Reality. It is an ignorant, false, bigoted, boring, pretentious film that could have been made by Eisenstein in the Kremlin under Joseph Stalin in 1938.  

Written and directed by Todd Haynes, it’s a maladroit, amateurish diatribe against America in general, and Caucasians in particular.  The leading lady, Cathy Whitaker (boorishly played by Julianne Moore, who has appeared for Haynes before) is a nincompoop.  She turns the other cheek when she discovers that her husband, Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid), is having homosexual affairs (big surprise, huh?).  Frank is an equally unrealistic character, seemingly a successful businessman, yet all we ever see is him wallowing about his predicament, or in the arms of some of his male lovers.  Their children are automatons (“brush your teeth” “yes sir”). 

Filmed in annoying pastels, the movie is so far removed from life in the ‘50s that it never makes any impact whatever.  It is simply a left-wing polemic that destroys itself by its falsity.  The story is that these people are supposed to be the typical American family in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1957.  They are surrounded by their friends, all of whom are mindless bigots (about race, that is; apparently Frank’s homosexual dalliances are of no concern, an attitude that would have been totally uncharacteristic in the ‘50s).  Haynes has chosen to make the Whitaker’s gardener, Raymond Deegan (Dennis Haysbert), an African-American, the never-complaining hero figure.  Even though he’s working as a gardener, he speaks as if he has been educated at Choate and Harvard.  Nothing against gardeners, but I’ve never heard a gardener speak proper English, much less the neo-Shakespearean perfection uttered by Raymond. He’s Sidney Poitier and Cary Grant and Gary Cooper all rolled into one superhuman guy.  He never loses his temper.  He’s handsome, wise, kind, and understanding.  He harbors no bigotry, unlike all the people around him.  He doesn’t react when his daughter is viciously attacked.  He bears no resentment at the bigotry aimed at him.  This man is Superman.

 Naturally he befriends Cathy, who is an airhead’s airhead if there ever was one (but she’s pictured by Haynes as being typical).  By god is she a trooper.  She accepts Frank’s dalliances and drinking and self-pity with nary a worry or care and continues on to be the perfect homemaker.  She suffers the slings and arrows of the gossip of her bigoted friends without any concern or self-pity of her own.  Cathy matches Raymond in her non-judgmental perfection.

 The bigotry comes from both sides.  The whites don’t like a white woman being seen with a black man.  The blacks don’t like a black man being seen with a white woman. Apparently, according to Haynes, all Americans in the ‘50s were bigots, except Cathy and Raymond, that is.

 Haynes was born in 1961.  He displays that he knows nothing about the ‘50s and that he doesn’t care.  This guy isn’t trying to tell us what it was like to live in the ‘50s.  He’s trying to create a world that never existed and get others who didn’t live through it to believe that it was the way he has created, not the way it really was.  It’s said that the people who make the history are the people who write it.  Facts are irrelevant.  And, clearly, Haynes doesn’t care about what it was really like in the ‘50s. He wants to present a totally biased picture, and that’s what he’s done.

 Far From Heaven is dishonest propaganda at its worst, and most clumsy. Frankly, it’s the clumsiness that’s so offensive.  It was the clumsiness that made the Soviet film industry so laughable, and it’s the clumsiness that makes this film so absurd.  Never have I seen more unrealistically idealized heroes (outside of Alexander Nevsky) than Raymond and Cathy.  If Haynes had any talent, like some in the notorious Hollywood Ten had, he’d be able to get his philosophy across subtly without smacking you in the face with it. 

Too make matters much worse this inept film is terminally boring.  It makes one hour 47 minutes seem unending. 

The End