Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a rewatch.
The Jerker: Far From Heaven
Director Todd Haynes (Carol, Far From Heaven) scored an Oscar nomination for his screenplay to this period melodrama back in 2002. Haynes channels the rich color and lurid tone of directors Vincente Minnelli and Douglas Sirk to tell the story of a middle-class family in Connecticut torn apart by deep secrets.
Juliane Moore plays Cathy, a happy and popular housewife whose husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) is secretly having homosexual affairs. With their lives and standing in the community at stake, she finds solace in her gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert). Raymond’s grace and intelligence impress Cathy, and the two find themselves increasingly drawn to one another. Meanwhile, Frank turns to alcohol and conversion therapy to “cure” his sexuality, with predictably disastrous results.
Far From Heaven uses soapy melodrama to comment on issues of sexuality, gender and race. Though set in the 1950s, the film comments more on the attitudes of Americans in the early 2000s–comments, incidentally, that still feel relevant today. Haynes shows off the height of his power as a director, loading the film with style and beautiful imagery. Likewise, the cast delivers all-around splendid performances. Moore nabbed a Best Actress Oscar nomination, while Haysbert, Quaid and Patricia Clarkson (as a nosy neighbor) all deserved recognition as well. Tender, quiet and yet teeming with passionate rage, Far From Heaven is the kind of movie that makes us weep at its beauty, and from its sadness.
Streams on Hulu, Amazon, Starz and YouTube.