Desson Thomson Recommends
T his weekend found Julianne Moore in yet another film set in the 1950s, "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio," in which she plays a woman trying to keep a roof over her family by entering jingle contests. You'll recall she was a tragically destined housewife in Todd Haynes's 1950s-set "Far From Heaven" (see below), and in "The Hours" she played a suicidal housewife in 1950s California. Here are a couple more rental ideas to feed your '50s-set film need.
Far From Heaven (2002, 107 minutes) -- In Haynes's sublime tribute to the 1950s melodramas of Douglas Sirk, Moore plays a Sirkian martyr who tries to deal with her husband's (Dennis Quaid) struggles with his alcoholism and homosexuality, then has an affair of the heart with her African American gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert). Suddenly a pariah among her tony neighbors, she finds herself at the forefront of a dawning social consciousness.
Parents (1989, 81 minutes) -- In Bob Balaban's wittily gruesome satire, the Cold War hangs over white picket-fenced America like a mushroom cloud. It's even darker in the home of little Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky), where Mom (Mary Beth Hurt) is an almost zombiefied housewife who lives for drunken bridge games and Dad (a grimly cherubic Randy Quaid) works cheerily for a defoliant company called Toxico. And Michael has stopped eating the meat they serve him, which he suspects didn't come from the butcher. Can you say "Leave It to Cleaver"?
October Sky (1999, 108 minutes) -- West Virginia student Homer H. Hickam Jr. (Jake Gyllenhaal) answers President Kennedy's call to beat the Russians to the moon by working on building a miniature space rocket. His first model blows a hole in his mother's rose garden fence. But it's clear his all-American determination will prevail despite resistance from his old man (Chris Cooper), who expects his son to follow him into the mines. Gyllenhaal brings a sweet-natured innocence to this Capraesque salute to the American Dream and youthful ingenuity.