Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Single Man - A Review

The latest edition of Entertainment Weekly arrived in my mail box today. It has 25 movies you must see before the Oscars on March 7th 2010. To date I have seen 18 of them. Not too shabby. Also note that 4 of the flicks I have yet to see have not been released in Vancity (or I missed them when they were here), 2 others I will be seeing over the weekend, and one – Julie & Julia – I am planning on renting shortly. Yesterday I saw Tom Ford’s stunning directorial debut – A Single Man. Yes, that Tom Ford. The fashion designer who single handedly brought Gucci back from the brink of bankruptcy during the 1990’s.

Stunning is most definitely the watchword for this film. Visually= stunning. Performances = stunning. Music = stunning. It was lush and beautiful and meticulous. Loved it.

A Single Man is based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood. Set in Los Angeles in 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, it is the story of a British college professor (Colin Firth) who is struggling to find meaning to his life after the death of his long time partner (Matthew Goode). The story is a romantic tale of love interrupted, the isolation that is an inherent part of the human condition, and ultimately the importance of the seemingly smaller moments in life. Produced by Tom Ford through his Los Angeles based production company, Fade to Black, in association with Chris Weitz and Andrew Miano of Depth of Field, and Robert Salerno of Artina Films. The screenplay is written by Tom Ford and David Scearce. --© Weinsteins

Colin Firth as George is truly magnificent as a man drowning in his grief. His long time partner – Jim – who we only see through flashbacks - was killed in a car crash less than a year ago. George had never been given an opportunity to grieve for his love of 16 years. In a sad example of how gay relationships were treated by many in the 1960’s, George was only informed of the accident when one of Jim’s relatives secretly called him. Not only was he not able to go to the funeral, as it was “family” only, Jim’s parents apparently decided to keep their dead son’s pets. Nice right.

8 months later, George has decided to put his affairs in order and take matters into his own hands. He has planned it all so perfectly, and is intending on leaving everything in meticulous order. But a number of chance meetings throughout the course of the day make him reconsider this decision.

First and foremost is his encounter with one of his young students – a blonde haired, blue eyed, perfectly sun kissed student – played with salty goodness by Nicholas Hoult. Sigh. Did George see pieces of himself in the young Jimmy? There were a number of similarities between these men who are at differing stages of their lives. But Jimmy was open with who he was whereas George’s life remained cloaked in secrecy.

Julianne Moore, as Charley – George’s sometime lover and best friend is luminous. As always she is spectacular. She is one of my favourite working actresses. She is always amazing in everything she does. Moore is willing to do whatever it takes to deliver an authentic, real performance. I love her so much. And her hair and make up in this film. Oh la. So fricking amazing. I did not particularly care for her dress, but I suppose that it suited the times.

Everything is beautiful in this film. There is none of the ugliness of LA. All the people are perfectly dressed, impeccably coiffed and beautifully manicured. I suspect that Tom Ford overlooked every frame of film. There was meticulous detail in every aspect of this movie, everything seemed perfectly calculated and considered.

I was intrigued by the use of light and colour. Firth seems to be lit in grey’s and ash tones, that wash him out completely. Other characters, particularly Jimmy, appear to be permanently lit by the sun’s warm glow. Every frame Hoult was in was golden and bright and beautiful. And in George’s last encounter with his new young friend, he too seems to be enveloped in a warm golden light. Yes, I may be over thinking, but that was how it came across to me.

I also absolutely loved the score by Abel Korzeniowski - flawless and haunting. A number of the scenes were without words – perhaps this is why the music resonated so strongly with me. In addition, the scenes where he is quietly observing his neighbours and their seemingly perfect life seem surreal. Slowed down and brightly lit with a distinct dream like quality. It is as if he is watching a movie.

Tom Ford’s A Single Man is a beautiful, stylized, carefully detailed and immaculately shot movie. Firth’s performance is phenomenal. The film is anchored magnificently by Firth’s masterful portrayal as a man who is lost in his grief. Firth will be nominated for an Oscar for this role. Not sure if he will win, but for me, at this stage in the game, from the roles I have seen, his is the performance to beat.

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