Far from Heaven (2002)

Week of November 9, 2005


Todd (Velvet Goldmine) Haynes' complex, fagtastic masterwork failed to get the love it deserved at the Oscars back in '03, garnering but one acting nomination for Julianne Moore. She's good — Julianne Moore is always good — but the real revelations here are Dennis Quaid as a closeted 1950s advertising executive and Dennis Haysbert as a cultured black horticulturalist whom Moore begins to fancy when her husband (Quaid) loses his desire to put the biscuit in the basket.

If only Haysbert would put a sock in those disaster-insurance commercials he's been doing, he could become this generation's James Earl Jones. That Haysbert could credibly play POTUS — as he does on 24 — until kingdom come is no mean feat for a black man. But it's Quaid who shows a dimension here that no one even knew was in his bag.

While emanating machismo throughout his checkered career, Quaid has paradoxically spoken with a slight lisp, which makes his recruitment something more than a Tarantino-Travolta career resuscitation stunt. Through the perfectly cast Quaid, Haynes — a gay man himself — captures the booze-soaked torture of being secretly homosexual in the age of sock hops and drive-ins. That Haynes also pulls off an adroit portrayal of the torture of budding interracial romance in this same era elevates Far from Heaven to tour-de-force status. -- Mike Seely

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.