Far From Heaven (2002)

(In theaters, January 2003) The most impressive thing about this film is how it presents a fifties melodrama as a period piece, without once resorting to cheap irony or contemporary arrogance. While the story is simple (a perfect housewife discovers that her husband is gay and then falls in love with a black man), the tone is maintained with a great deal of control. It is possible to be bored and generally unsurprised by the film (which includes all the expected ostracism scenes), but it’s difficult not to respect the care with which it is fashioned. Save from the titling and some editing choices, the film looks and feels as if it could have been made at any time since 1958. Acting is top-notch, but particular attention has to be given to Dennis Haysbert, who finally comes to the forefront after several turns in smaller-scale projects. It’s easy to watch the film and make tongue-in-cheek comments about what’s going on, but writer/director Todd Haynes has something different, and very earnest in mind. One finally realizes that it would just be rude to be ironic in face of such raw sentiment.

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