Reviewed by Dennis Morton
the last time you were told to "wash your teeth" ?
If you were a story teller, how far would you go to tell your
What were the fifties really like?
These were a few of the questions I left the theatre with after
watching Todd Haynes latest movie Far From Heaven.
Its a very unusual and a very ambitious film. Ultimately,
Im not sure it works, but if it doesnt, its
surely a noble failure. In either case, I recommend it to you.
I found it fascinating. Its visually stunning. Almost every
frame is perfect, plu perfect, even too perfect. In fact, almost
everything about this film is a degree or two over the top.
I have a friend who is given to cliches. Hes extraordinarily
bright and though his conversation is studded with phrases and
idioms that would sound stale coming from most of us, when he
speaks, its as if hed coined them himself. With the
power of his imagination and his natural narrative skills, my
friend rejuvenates the hackneyed. I mention this because Todd
Haynes has done something similar in Far From Heaven. With a few
very significant exceptions, the entire script is constructed
The movie is set in Hartford, Connecticut, in the closing months
of 1957. We swoop into the lives of the Whitaker family, an American
success story. Father Frank is a prosperous executive. Mother
Cathy is the perfect wife and responsible mother of two adorable
children. Their house is in the suburbs. Its big, well appointed
and very orderly. The Whitakers have a maid and a gardener, both
of whom are black. And the Whitakers are members of the NAACP.
This is the American dream, the life were all
supposed to want, the one were entitled to if we work hard
and play by the rules. If this isnt paradise, how far
from heaven can it be? Well, as you might guess, Todd Haynes
This is a story about surfaces, about the illusion of appearances,
about how thin the ice really is. Its a story about racism
and repression and sexuality and denial. Its a story about
the pressure to conform.
Because Haynes narrative technique is so original, I think
Id be doing you a disservice to reveal any of the details
of the plot. Instead, Ill close with a few lines from one
of my favorite poets, Wallace Stevens.
Stevens was an extraordinary man who lived a rather ordinary life
in the Whitakers home town of Hartford, Connecticut. He
was an insurance executive by day, a poet by night. He died in
1955, two years before the events in Far From Heaven unfold.
These are the first two lines from his poem "The Well Dressed
Man With A Beard": After the final no there comes a yes.
And on that yes the future world depends. Far From Heaven is a
film worthy of several viewings and I urge you not to miss it.
Far From Heaven opens this weekend at The Nickelodeon Theatre
in downtown Santa Cruz. For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis