Far From Heaven

Cathy Whitaker: Julianne Moore
Frank Whitaker: Dennis Quaid
Raymond Deagan: Dennis Haysbert
Eleanor Fine: Patricia Clarkson
Sybil: Viola Davis

Focus Features presents a film written and directed by Todd Haynes. Running time: 107 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for mature thematic elements, sexual content, brief violence and language).

Central Theme
There is a world, forbidden and beyond convention, and in that world may be the heaven I seek, but will I take the risk and get beyond the surface or will I stay on the safe and stultifying path?

The model marriage of Frank (Dennis Quaid) and Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) in 1950s Hartford is depicted in television ads, and a magazine features photographs of Cathy as a model homemaker and citizen. Yet, behind the curtains of their dream home, Cathy and Frank hide scandalous secrets. Frank has been masquerading his homosexuality and is seeing a doctor for a heterosexual conversion. Meanwhile, Cathy finds solace in her gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert), a black man about whom Cathy must conceal her growing feelings, since simply being seen with him is cause for scandal.
(Focus Films Summary)

Set in the 50’s, which are portrayed as superficial and stultifying in their surface sweetness, the movie slowly unravels the masquerade and reveals a darkness and desperation in the key characters. By superimposing two story lines of prejudice, one towards blacks the other towards gays, the unspoken message is that the two are analogous, and implying that while contemporary society has come a long ways on race, we have miles to go on gender prejudice.

Playing the 50’s terminal niceness to an extreme is effective stylistically and has the effect of ¢â‚¬Ëœdissing’ insincere civility, but those who lived through it know that this portrayal is as inaccurate as a movie that would portray every 90’s family like Beavis and Butthead. When done intentionally, as in this film, such social stereotyping serves to make a point and uses art to do it, but should not be taken as literal and representative. In bad films, such stereotyping betrays a Hollywood so out of touch with real life that it’s portrayals reveal more about its ignorance than it’s art and reveals the same of an audience, which would accept one-dimensional depictions as real. As more and more filmakers and filmgoers shape their vision of reality through film instead of experiencing real life in real places, the greater the possibility film will lose it’s ability to communicate truth.

Beliefs num
–We fear the unknown and different.
–These fears keep us from enjoying our differences, understanding ourselves and exploring the unknown.
–The “Leave it to Beaver” 50’s were really very superficial and not desirable because they weren’t honest.
–Convention is bad, breaking with tradition and the expected is good.
–Homosexuality cannot and should not be ¢â‚¬Ëœtreated” it should be accepted.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What were the points of resonance and dissonance for you in this film?
–Why does the grass seem greener on the other side of the fence?
–Is the other side of the fence always better?
–How will you know if you don’t cross the fence?
–How are the issues of race and homosexuality similar and different?

Provocative Quotes byline
–So does the fabled maxim hold that behind every successful man resides a great woman?
==Friend reading an article about Cathy and Frank from the society page.
–Once a ling time ago I had problems. I figured that was it. I never imagined.
==Frank talks about his Homosexual encounter after Cathy catches him.
–I want to begin treatment. I can’t let this thing destroy my life. I know it’s wrong because it makes me feel despicable.
==Frank Whitaker.
–I just want to get the whole f kin thing over with. Can you understand that?
==Frank angry response to Cathy who wants to know how counseling is going.
–It’s all smoke and mirrors, fellas. That’s all it is. You should see her without her face on.
==Frank W. drunk at the party talks about his wife’s beauty.
–No, he’s absolutely right. We ladies are never what we appear, and every girl has her secrets.
==Cathy W. defends and supports her husband.
–Perhaps you can get me some ice. I’m all right.
==Cathy after Frank strikes her the night of the party.
–Once you do confide, they really aren’t outside your world are they?
==Cathy after confiding in Raymond.
–Just tell me one goddam thing. Is it true? What they’ve been saying? Because f it is¢â‚¬¦Christ Cathy, do you even have the slightest idea what this could mean? Don’t you realize the effect this could have on me and the reputation I have spent the past eight years trying to build for us and the children and the company?
==Frank to Cathy after she’s seen with Raymond.
–I can’t¢â‚¬¦It isn’t plausible for me to be friends with you.
==Cathy tells Raymond she can’t see him again.
–Do you think we ever really do see beyond those things¢â‚¬¦the surface of things?
==Cathy to Raymond.
–Just beyond the fall of grace…behold that ever shining place. Yes I do.
–Kathy. Something happened. I’ve fallen in love with someone¢â‚¬¦he wants to be with me. I never knew what they felt¢â‚¬¦I tried so hard to make it go away. I thought that I could do it for you and the kids. But I can’t. I can’t.
==Frank announces he is leaving for a man.
–No one would know us there.
==Cathy suggesting she meet Raymond in Baltimore where he is moving.
–I’m just not sure that’s a wise idea. What matters now is what’s right for Sarah. I’ve learned my lesson about living in other worlds. To see the sparks fly. All kinds¢â‚¬¦ Live a proud life, a splendid life. Will you do that?
==Raymond says good-bye to Cathy.
–That was the day I stopped believing in the wild ardor of things. Perhaps in love, as well. That kind of love. The love in books and films. The love that tells us to abandon our lives and plans, all for one brief touch of Venus. So often we fail at that kind of love. The world just seems too fragile a place for it. And of every other kind, life remains full. Perhaps it’s just we who are too fragile.
==Cathy Whitaker.
–One detail is particularly true to the time: Interracial love and homosexual love are treated as being on different moral planes. The civil rights revolution predated gay liberation by about 10 years, and you can see that here: The movie doesn’t believe Raymond and Cathy have a plausible future together, but there is bittersweet regret that they do not. When Frank meets a young man and falls in love, however, the affair is not ennobled but treated as a matter of motel rooms and furtive meetings. Haynes is pitch-perfect here in noting that homosexuality, in the 1950s, still dared not speak its name.
==Roger Ebert.

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