Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows (1955) was a big, voluptuous, tear-jerking romancer about a well-off widow (Jane Wyman) falling for her hunky, much younger gardener (Rock Hudson). So what’s the problem? Ask her grown-up children who were aghast at this coupling as were all of her viperous friends and local society in general.
Todd Haynes has now remade this feature, or one could say he uses it as a jumping off point to express the real concerns of the fifties that Sirk couldn’t touch with a ten-foot rake, concerns that are dishearteningly still relevant today.
Todd Haynes, one of the most brilliant directors working today, one whose genius and sense of entertainment envelops every one of his diverse projects,asks of us what if that woman’s husband were alive and homosexual, and what if the only person she could turn to was her gardener who was black. Now let’s see that 1950’s country club set get into a real uproar.
As the rebel with a cause, Julianne Moore incomparably embodies an exemplary housewife who nearly disintegrates as the values she once treasured becomefarcical, empty tenets that restrict her happiness as opposed to safeguarding it. Meanwhile, Dennis Quaid, as her alcoholic, cheating spouse, is getting a bit too craggy to be the man gays drool over when they spot him in a local movie theater, but his performance is nonetheless fine. Also noteworthy as the handsome “Negro” gardener who can critique modern art is Dennis Haysbert who’s letter perfect. And Patricia Clarkson easily steals the show as the oh!so understanding best friend.
Add Oscar-worthy outfits by Sandy (Shakespeare in Love) Powell, startling cinematography by Edward (Desperately Seeking Susan) Lachman, A.S.C., plus Elmer Bernstein’s career-crowning score, and this is the only end-of-the-year release that is guaranteed to have you running to the theater over and over again. (If you are a Harry Potter fan, I apologize.)