[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 13:54 GMT
Coming close to Heaven
By Jackie Finlay
BBC News Online entertainment editor

Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore: Back in time
Far From Heaven has performed well in the awards season so far. How does its star Julianne Moore fare in Todd Haynes' homage to the 50s melodrama?

Julianne Moore appears to have concentrated her range this year.

The actress is gathering praise for her performance in The Hours, in which she plays an unhappy 1950s housewife alongside Nicole Kidman's Virginia Woolf and Meryl Streep's modern-day book editor.

Also winning acclaim is her second major film role this year - as an unhappy 1950s housewife, in Far From Heaven.

One assumes this is not worrying her fiancÚ, movie director Bart Freundlich.

But as would be expected of Moore, she interprets the roles in very different ways, bringing us women that are poles apart in character and emotional state.

Flawed heroine

It is the performance as Cathy Whitaker, the woman with the apparently perfect life, in Far From Heaven which has won Moore the most acclaim from the critics.

Cathy's idealised, 1950s advertisement world is shattered when she finds her husband, played by Dennis Quaid, is gay.

She finds solace in a friendship with black gardener Raymond, played by 24's Dennis Haysbert, which is received badly in their latently racist Connecticut town.

All three central performances are strong, as the characters whose problems are so bound to each other nevertheless struggle in emotional isolation.

Moore puts in a steely, self-contained performance as Cathy Whitaker, allowing her flawed heroine to display petty vanity and self-delusion.

Cathy's emotional chaos is handled with poise rather than hysterics. Moore portrays with her trademark delicacy the woman forced by desperation to break out of the society confines in which she believes.

Modern sensibility

Quaid is a strong foil to Moore, creating a believably tortured yet selfish husband who, despite his suffering, is not as much of a figure of sympathy as his wife.

Haysbert also puts in a carefully understated performance as the well-balanced, almost mystic, gardener whose outlook and life are ruined by racist attitudes.

Director Haynes has laden the film with 1950s styling, from the opening graphics to the cars to the nail varnish.

The detail and atmosphere is charmingly accurate but it feels overladen after a while, as it battles for attention with the growing emotional burden of the movie.

Despite the attempt to show the repressed emotional layers struggling beneath society's placid surface, the movie is not as incisive as, say, The Ice Storm.

It explores with a modern sensibility the pretence in the 1950s that racism and homosexuality did not exist.

But its fascination with 50s artefacts takes it perilously close to a movie with more style than substance.


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific