Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA/France, 2002. Focus Features, Vulcan Productions, Killer Films, John Wells Productions, Section Eight, TF1 International. Screenplay by Todd Haynes. Cinematography by Edward Lachman. Produced by Jody Allen, Christine Vachon. Music by Elmer Bernstein. Production Design by Mark Friedberg. Costume Design by Sandy Powell. Film Editing by James Lyons. Academy Awards 2002. Golden Globe Awards 2002. Independent Spirit Awards 2002. Toronto International Film Festival 2002.
Todd Haynes reimagines Douglas Sirk’s masterpiece All That Heaven Allows into this equally unforgettable classic. Julianne Moore stars as a picture-perfect Hartford, Connecticut housewife who lives to serve her husband (Dennis Quaid) his after-work cocktails and make sure her children always do their homework. Her ideal life is shattered to pieces when she surprises her husband late at work one night and catches him making love to another man. She herself has just struck up a deep friendship with her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert) and is left to face the ire of a community that refuses to accept a relationship of its kind. Haynes has done a pristine job of recreating Sirk’s candy-coloured world, but this is no gimmick movie: as the story progresses, Haynes’ own sensibilities take over and give us a probing and effective look into the hearts of these characters; as Moore’s own horizons broaden throughout the story’s progression, so the dialogue and situations become less and less Leave It To Beaver in nature. Moore is absolutely exquisite in the lead, bringing to life the Post-War Prosperity happy housewife and then revealing the full-blooded passion that lies directly beneath the surface, while Quaid has never been better in an understated and emotionally powerful performance. The costumes and sets are both gorgeous and meaningful, effectively etching out a terrifying world of conformity, and the cinematography, meant to recreate Sirk’s own groundbreaking dramatic use of colour photography, not only does so beautifully but manages to strike some aching emotional chords of its own. The person to admire the most, however, is the director himself, who has never made a film nearly as impressive or powerful in his career.