Almost Moore Than Heaven Allows
Todd Haynes' "Far from Heaven" owes a lot to the magnificent "All That Heaven Allows" in fact it feels like Haynes took the original story and swapped the social issues which were the focus of that one and replaced them with similar ones. What that means is that we have this dramatic 1950s tale of a woman's sacrifice as she not only has to deal with her husband being a homosexual but also the scathing gossip when she becomes a friend to her coloured gardener who is there for her in times of trouble. It looks at the social aspect of these issues whilst also tackling sacrifice just like Sirk did with "All That Heaven Allows". And Haynes does a good job of bringing this all together to make a very good drama, one which honestly isn't as good as "All That Heaven Allows" but is definitely above average.
Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore - Evolution) seems to be the ideal of a 50s housewife, her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid - The Rookie) is successful, their children are healthy and she has respect within the society. But the truth is very different especially after the night she discovered Frank kissing another man. Whilst she tries to be supportive as Frank vows to seek medical help to cure him from being a homosexual Cathy finds herself becoming friends with her coloured gardener Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert - Absolute Power) who becomes a shoulder to cry on. And this friendship causes more issues as being seen with a coloured man is seen as wrong in the prejudiced town of Hartford. It leads Cathy to have to make some decisions and sacrifices as she has to decide what is best for her family or for herself.
Now whilst influenced by Sirk's "All That Heaven Allows" "Far from Heaven" isn't a remake it just covers a similar set up as we have Cathy Whitaker who finds herself facing a series of decisions. Where as Sirk gave us a romance between an older woman and a younger man who wasn't from the same social set Hayne's changes that so we have the revelation that Cathy's husband is a closet homosexual which leads to her friendship with coloured gardener Raymond causing vicious rumours in a prejudiced community. But these two elements work well together with Cathy trying to be supportive to her husband whilst leading her to becoming close to Raymond who listens to her. And whilst there is no real romance going on it is also obvious that Cathy has feelings for the gentle Raymond.
As such with this being set in the 1950s it also embraces the prejudices of the era as the gossip surrounding Cathy and Raymond being seen together causing issues for her family. And not just for her family as we also get a glimpse of how wrong people's views were back then as we watch Raymond's daughter bullied. At the same time it also gives us a glimpse of what it was like being a homosexual back in the 50s, leading the double life of being married but having encounters with men behind locked doors. And we also see how people went to doctors to try and be cured, believing that homosexuality was a disease which could be treated.
All of which leads to Cathy having to make decisions of sacrifice as she tries to be supportive of her husband and then deciding whether her friendship to Raymond is worth the trouble it causes her family. And as such like with Sirk's "All That Heaven Allows" it also brings to the fore whether those sacrifices were really worth it or whether Cathy should have chosen differently.
Whilst as Cathy's husband Frank you have Dennis Quaid delivering a scene stealing performance especially when it comes to the stress of dealing with his homosexuality and Dennis Haysbert is both strong and sensitive as Raymond Deagan "Far from Heaven" is really all about Cathy played by Julianne Moore. And it is a very good performance from Moore because you sense her turmoil, from being supportive to Frank whilst keeping up the facade of the perfect family whilst being herself when she keeps company with Raymond. But what is so nice about Moore's performance is the romantic restraint, you can feel that fondness she has for Raymond and that in a different world they would have been together but it never gushes over, it's just a look, a heart felt look of knowing not only love but that nothing can be done about it.
What this all boils down to is that "Far from Heaven" is a very good drama and a great companion piece to "All That Heaven Allows". It covers similar territory that of 1950s prejudices, social issues and sacrifice but switches the prejudices and approaches them from a slightly different angle so that whilst it is obviously influenced by "All That Heaven Allows" is not just a copy.