Far from Heaven (2003. Universal. DVD version)

Menard’s. Who’dve thought I’d find a compelling and touching movie walking through Menard’s on a Saturday night looking for a new caulking gun and caulk? Well, I did. I also found my wife an anniversary card at the same time! Now that’s quick thinking, fellows. I mean, finding a great date movie and a card to save my ass in a lumber and hardware store is, in my humble male mind, a stroke of rarefied genius. Enough about how smart I am. On to the movie.

I’ve loved Julianne Moore since Boogie Nights. There are few mainstream actresses willing to use nudity and sex in the way that Moore does and can. She’s seemingly unabashed about playing characters and disrobing whether playing a porn star or later-in-life lesbian (The Kids are Alright). And, until I read her bio online, I’d forgotten she convincingly played the grieving mother in the film version of my favorite Jane Hamilton novel, A Map of the World. Anyway, in Far from Heaven, Moore plays, well, a character right out of another Moore’s (Mary Tyler Moore’s) past: the dutiful suburban housewife from the post-Korean War era. As Cathy Whitaker, Moore watches her marriage, her social life, and family crumble before her eyes as her salesman husband (well played by Dennis Quaid) tipples too much and falls into dangerous (for 1958) homosexual dalliances while feigning to be working at the office. Moore turns to her gardener, a “Negro”, for solace: a connection which has the whole town of Hartford, Connecticut abuzz. The scenes between Moore and the gardener (played with nuance by Allstate Insurance pitchman and star of The Unit, Dennis Haysbert) are well done and believable, though they do leave you wanting for more, which is the whole theme of the movie: Is there anything left for Cathy after the collapse of her world?

The cinematography is gorgeous, perhaps too much so, in terms of the 1950s details  (great cars!) and colors, and reminds me of the dazzle and beauty of the recent Dr. Seuss films. The dialogue involving the Whitaker children is limited and somewhat stilted. Ditto for a few of the exchanges between Quaid and Moore. But for a film I’d never heard of (despite the Oscar nomination that Moore received for her role) there’s much to like about this small, seemingly unimposing period piece. Especially good with a nice Merlot and your beautiful wife snuggling next to you on the couch!

4 stars out of 5.



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