Far from Heaven feels like it takes place in a Norman Rockwell painting. Everything is uber Americana, bursting with excessive amounts of 50s kitsch. Classic cars, fall foilage, women clad in bold-colored dresses, men working important jobs in art-deco buildings. It painstakingly and meticulously recreates the late 1950s to the extreme. This movie looks like what would happen if you took a reel of 35mm film and slowly dripped pieces of apple pie onto each frame.
It’s pretty good world building, and important world building at that, because we quickly learn that things in Far from Heaven aren’t what they seem. Julianne Moore’s idyllic housewife existence becomes unraveled when she finds out her executive husband Dennis Quaid is harboring homosexual thoughts and feelings. It also doesn’t help that she becomes enamored by the stoic, friendly Dennis Haysbert, an African American man whose skin color doesn’t jive with the uppity white folk of their Connecticut town. Julianne’s character must balance her struggle with her husband’s sexuality and her new friendship/emotional connection with Haysbert, all while saving face for the horrendously judgmental women she associates herself with.
Its hopelessly melodramatic and quite laughable at times, and often proceeds so slowly to the point of us falling asleep. But there is a touch of greatness that lingers in every frame of the movie. The lighting in particular is beautifully generated, with characters’ faces constantly in the shadows during dark and nighttime scenes, showcasing the two-faced nature of, well, pretty much everyone. Director and writer Todd Haynes has a strong knack at eliciting emotion through quiet situations, and how to make his actors show fury on their face, when the rest of their world is telling them to be silent.