CFS: ‘Far’ from ordinary

Jon Carcio

Set in an upper-middle-class Connecticut suburb in the late 1950s, “Far From Heaven” appears to be the classic story of a successful businessman and his elegant wife, raising their two children in perfection. Beneath the surface of this ideal couple’s relationship, however, lie secret desires which not only threaten their marriage, but their ability to survive in a morally strict community.

Julianne Moore plays Cathy Whitaker, a socially prominent housewife who graces the cover of the society pages and can host a party with every important detail attended to. Her husband, Frank, played by Dennis Quaid, reflects the power and masculinity perceived necessary to head both a family and a company during that era. This seemingly ideal marriage is sent into a tailspin when Cathy surprises her husband at work and finds him in the arms of another man. She is able to find solace by sharing time with her black gardener, Raymond, played by Dennis Haysbert (President Palmer on the television drama “24”).

Cathy’s innocent relationship with Raymond does not go unnoticed by the predominantly white populace, who separate themselves from her for befriending someone they see as a second-class citizen. With her marriage in trouble and her reputation severely damaged, the audience follows Cathy as she tries to cope with circumstances that she never imagined could befall her.

In creating “Far From Heaven,” director Todd Haynes goes beyond merely setting the film in the 1950s. His use of lush, colorful photography, a symphonic musical score and picturesque suburban locales pay homage to the work of Douglas Sirk, whose infamous directing style is the epitome of a ’50s melodrama. This film’s title even notes its relationship to Sirk’s “All That Heaven Allows.” Haynes also has the advantage in modern cinema of being able to approach sensitive issues that Sirk also dealt with, such as race and sexuality, more forthright than was acceptable during Sirk’s time.

“Far From Heaven” was awarded four Academy Award nominations: Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Musical Score. Although Moore did not take home the Oscar for her role, her performance as the melodramatic anti-heroine was considered by many critics to be the finest of 2002. She won Best Actress awards from film critics’ associations in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, London, Toronto, Vancouver, Dallas-Forth Worth and Florida.

“Far From Heaven” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m., and Monday at 7 p.m.

Admission is $3 for students and $4 for all others. Allan Barber, Associate Professor in the Department of Film and Media Arts at Temple University, will introduce the Monday night screening in addition to leading a discussion titled “All That Haynes Allows” after the conclusion of the film.

For more information, call the Communication Department at x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or see the CFS web page: