Review: A Single Man
PLOT: A single day in the life of a middle-aged, British academic (Colin Firth) living in Los Angeles during the 1960ís. Distraught over the death of his lover (Matthew Goode), he plans to take his own life, but first must contend with his alcoholic, party girl best friend (Julianne Moore), and the advances of an adoring student (Nicholas Hoult).
REVIEW: A SINGLE MAN was another film that played to great acclaim at this yearís edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. Based on the Christopher Isherwood novel of the same name, it marks the filmmaking debut of designer Tom Ford. Iíve always admired Ford as a designer, and his work costuming Daniel Craig in QUANTUM OF SOLACE was good enough to make me want to invest in a full-fledged Tom Ford suit, but alas, the bank account does not allow it...
As a director, Ford seems to approach film in the same way he does clothing. A SINGLE MAN is sophisticated and stylish, just like his suits. The sixties setting suits Fordís aesthetic perfectly, with the film bathed in lush, warm colors, that bring to mind the look of many films from that era.
My one issue with Ford as a director is that- to look at any frame of the film, youíd never doubt that it was made by someone obsessed with appearance. Everything and everyone in the film never looks anything less than perfect. Everyone always looks perfectly coiffed, and the suits are never rumpled, and considering this is a movie about a manís soul-crushing depression, youíd think the look of the film might reflect that somewhat. Still, I suppose Ford has his own style, and it certainly makes the film beautiful to look at.
In a rare leading role, Colin Firth, who mostly turns up in romantic comedies like the BRIDGET JONES films, or LOVE, ACTUALLY- truly excels in a performance that many have tipped as award worthy. I would not be a bit surprised to see Firth cop an Oscar nomination, and heís terrific here. His mild, English reserve suits the character perfectly, which is especially evident in a flashback sequence where he learns of his loverís death. The scene is truly wrenching, and we can clearly see that Firthís characterís world is imploding- yet he still hangs onto his ďstiff-upper-lipĒ reserve. This understated, minimalist approach to the character is very effective, and Firth really deserves the accolades heís been receiving for the film.
While this is Firthís show all the way (although, one could also say itís just as much Fordís show), the film also has an excellent supporting cast. As his doomed lover, Matthew Goode is terrific, and comes across as a very warm, kind sort who compliments the more reserved Firth perfectly. Meanwhile, Julianne Moore also has a gem of a role as Firthís alcoholic, divorcee best friend, who obviously harbors a deep, unrequited love for Firthís character, made impossible by the latterís orientation. I also thought Nicholas Hoult- whoís grown up a lot since playing the kid in ABOUT A BOY, does a great job as Firthís prized pupil. While the character could have been one-note, the fact that he seems to be struggling with questions about his own orientation- in a time when such things were expected to be repressed, gives the role a bit of an edge.
In many ways, A SINGLE MAN seems like the film equivalent of a novella. Itís short and compact, and when itís over youíll simultaneously be satisfied, yet hungry for more. I really enjoyed it, and it makes for a solid alternative to some of the larger scaled films out there this holiday season. If you fancy a trip to the art house over the holidays, A SINGLE MAN is a film well worth seeing.