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A Single Man

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 26-03-2010


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A tale of love at the height of the Cuban missile crisis.Amazon.com
Colin Firth gives the performance of a lifetime in A Single Man, a drama directed and adapted for the screen by fashion designer Tom Ford, who clearly has a deft vision and ability in the world of film as well. A Single Man is based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, and Ford’s–and Firth’s–gift is bringing the inner-turmoil world of the novel to believable, and devastating, life on the… More >>

A Single Man

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George Falconer (Colin Firth), a British literature professor living in Los Angeles in 1962, is struggling to find meaning in his life. That’s an awfully generic way to start a movie review, and I agree that many movies are about the struggle for meaning in life. But in the case of “A Single Man,” an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel, the idea seems neither hackneyed nor overused; we follow George over the course of one day and actually see and respond to his struggle to find meaning. Ever since a car accident took the life of Jim, his lover of sixteen years (Matthew Goode), George has been on a desperate search for some degree of contentment, some sign that he can love again and will be loved in return. He hasn’t found it yet. He may never again find it. So why not make use of the gun in the desk drawer?

This film marks the directorial debut of Tom Ford, the fashion designer and former creative director of the Gucci house. It would be brilliant even if it had been his twentieth film. It’s a story of astonishing observation and poignancy, where beauty is found not only in the form of a face or the arc of an eyebrow, but also in the cold bleakness of a winter road, where pain and death give way to encounters of surprising tenderness. It’s a masterpiece of character development and performance; every one of George’s onscreen appearances, for example, is an opportunity for Ford to reveal him to us, which is to say we never see him in an empty or extraneous moment. The dialogue is a perfect blend of insight, contemplation, and wit – one of those rare instances where every word is carefully placed yet strung together as naturally as regular conversation.

George is far from an uptight, prissy cliché, although he does give the appearance of being neat and orderly; always nicely dressed, always articulate, always able to keep his things in their proper place. But within, he’s an absolute mess, tormented by grief, loss, regret, and above all, fear – the fear of isolation, of growing old alone and forgotten. He finds some solace with his best friend and former lover, Charlotte, a.k.a. Charley (Julianne Moore), an aging, hard-drinking British beauty who seems determined to wallow in her failures as a wife and mother. She states at one point that, as wonderful as what George and Jim had was, it was probably just a substitute for something real. George asserts, with understandable frustration, that what he and Jim had was very much real and not a substitute for anything.

As the film progresses, a relationship develops between George and one of his students, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who appears, at first glance, to be nothing more than an infatuated youth. But this would be a tedious movie indeed if their interactions were entirely motivated by sex; there’s a definite physical attraction, no question, but ultimately, what they share boils down to the innate desire for meaningful human interaction, which works on a frequency separate from sexual orientation. Kenny, though young, is remarkably insightful and may in fact be the key to George’s emotional salvation.

While symbolism is hardly new in the movies, specific images in “A Single Man” so thoroughly represent the main character’s emotional turmoil that they cannot be dismissed as manipulative visual aids. Consider the use of clocks and watches, many ticking in unison with the sound of a beating heart; they tell time, something we’re all caught up in and will eventually fall victim to. The second hand continuously moves in jerky motions, as if to reinforce the idea that George’s life has been reduced to a countdown.

Also consider the use of color. George’s memories of Jim – which pop up randomly, as they tend to do in real life – are vibrant and lush, warm and inviting, evocative of a committed, loving relationship. Compare that to the world George now sees: Faded and gray, cold and lifeless, dull and dreary. There are select moments, however, when the colors visibly amplify, as when he has a conversation with his neighbor’s pleasant young daughter while waiting at the bank. As is the case with Kenny, this little girl gives George a much needed dose of social interaction.

In spite of George’s orientation, “A Single Man” is not, as some would call it, a “gay” movie. Its focus is on humanity, not sexuality, and that makes it accessible, I believe, to all audiences; it reaffirms that within all of us is the need to make contact with other people, sometimes for love, sometimes for a shoulder to cry on, sometimes for nothing more than simple conversation. Of all the films I’ve seen this year, few have been this relatable, this touching, and even in the absence of big-budget visual effects, this visually creative. Its greatest achievement, perhaps, was the casting of Colin Firth, undeniably convincing as a broken man maintaining a façade of serenity and togetherness. This is one of the year’s best films.
Rating: 5 / 5

Now and then a film comes along that is so perfect as examined from every angle that restores faith in the art of motion pictures. Such is the case with A SINGLE MAN. Starting with the beautiful novel of a gay British professor’s planned last day of life in Southern California by Christopher Isherwood, adapted for the screen by Tom Ford with dignity and the power to open up the subtleties of Isherwood’s book without treading on the solemnity of the books message, directed by that same newcomer Tom Ford with conviction and identification with Isherwood’s characters, and then acted with consummate skill by Colin Firth as single man George who is surrounded with an excellent supporting cast – this film is in a class by itself and hopefully those who decide on the awards for best film/best acting will honor it.

George (Colin Firth) begins what appears to be a rather ordinary day for a teacher of English in a close by college, the voice over by Firth relates the routine of rising and facing another day of loneliness he has been experiencing since the accidental death of his young lover Jim (Matthew Goode), yet there is something unique about this day: George is preparing for his last day on earth as he sets out his funeral attire and his gun and other accoutrements that suggest he is seriously going to end his life. He busies himself with getting to class, leaving money for his housekeeper Alva (Paulette Lamori), facing students who seem to be uninvolved with life in general and his course on Aldous Huxley in particular, then clearing his office and progressing with his exit plan. Little things happen: he observes his neighbors, the Strunks (wife/mother Ginnifer Goodwin, grumpy husband/father Teddy Sears, the annoying yet perceptive little girl Ryan Simpkins and brothers Paul Butler and Aaron Sanders) as they ‘play at ordinary normal life’; he talks with his longtime friend Charley (Julianne Moore), an ex ‘lover’ who shares his life secrets and invites him to yet another evening of food and drink and thwarted seduction; he is followed by one of his students Kenny (Nicholas Hoult) who despite the age difference offers a sense of caring and need for closeness; and he encounters a young handsome Spaniard Carlos (Jon Kortajarena) whom he befriends but decides not to pick up as a physical diversion. Little incidents remind him of his longterm relationship with his beloved Jim and these reminders are magically captured in flashbacks in tonal colors that create a sense of aging scrapbook pages. How George’s planned ‘suicide day’ ends gathers all of the beauty of this film in some moments as finely tuned as we are likely to ever see on celluloid.

Colin Firth IS George and the subtleties of his characterization are almost unbearably beautiful to watch. His home feels like Isherwood’s home in Santa Monica: there are even drawings by Don Bachardy, Isherwood’s lover, sensitively placed in the set. Julianne Moore gives another brilliant performance as the distraught alcoholic aging friend of George, and Nicholas Hoult and Matthew Goode give us characters to admire and to love. For this viewer this is as perfect a film as is possible to make. Highly recommended on every level. Grady Harp, January 10
Rating: 5 / 5

There are not enough stars to rate this film.

I viewed this film after it received it’s Oscar nod, and, having set such high expectation is not always a good way to see a movie. But the film left me speechless, breathless and emotionally spent.

__Every__single__shot__ in this film is laid out with perfect form, intensity, color and natural beauty and flows as if you’re literally watching the purest form of a new day’s dawn through George’s eyes, frame by frame. Despite the dark tones you hear so often cast on this film it is highly optimistic. Meaningless language and hollywood histrionics is spared leaving the viewer to feel the pain (and rebirth) with introspective intensity. High marks for the integrity and respect afforded every character, every feeling, every situation, every scene.

Colin Firth owns George Falconer — simple as that. I feel a new appreciation far and above my already high admiration of this beautiful, accomplished and intelligent actor.

I do hope Tom Ford should pick up a camera more often.
Rating: 5 / 5

This film took me by surprise. Being that this was Tom Ford’s directorial debut, I didn’t know what sort of expectations, if any, I should have had. That speculation was a profound waste of time. I like a great many movies but I love only a handful and this one falls squarely in the center of the latter category. I found it a profoundly lyrical and human exploration of the weight of loss, of the way we try to continue with a life that is now seemingly foreign because it is so jarringly incomplete; a study in reflective motion – the stranger in the mirror that shadows us. We witness how from the moment he wakes, George struggles to just exist in the most normal sense rather than live in the more extraordinary one. As he states early in the film “You see, my heart has been broken.” However, we not only see it, we come to feel it. We are wholly sympathetic to him because, in many ways, he’s all of us. Just like his loss, George’s pain is universal and through that hole in his soul, we enter and come to know him. Colin Firth’s performance is superb; a walking testament to weary resignation and automatic reflex. He operates by rote and instinct, struggling to reach the end of every minute of his day. The clocks in his world move ever so slowly and the monotone tick of the seconds hand reminds him just how much more of the day still looms darkly before him. Firth walks that very tricky tightrope with a character that can very easily become the embodiment of all that is morose and maudlin will simultaneously failing to elicit even an ounce of compassion from the viewer. Caricature is one misstep away but he doesn’t come anywhere near that pitfall. George is sad creature, no doubt, but he’s not pathetic; a dignified streak runs prominently through him. To those outside his reality, he’s the same George they’ve always known and he dutifully embraces the charade. As his longtime friend, Charlotte (Charley), Julianne Moore delivers with her customary and unerring brilliance. Donning a first rate English accent and a sense of frustration for her ill-conceived affection for George, she struggles alongside her friend to hold on to a world that is slowly leaving her behind. Nicholas Hoult is a revelation as Kenny Potter, George’s student; a young man whose own sense of isolation draws him to George and his detached and well thought out approach to life and human interaction. In him he finds a kindred spirit. As Jim, George’s partner of 16 years whom we get to know almost exclusively through flashbacks, Matthew Goode offers an honest portrayal of someone whose capacity to love and be loved forever transfigured those around him. Now let us move onto Tom Ford. Where has this man been hiding all these years? He was born to direct. His unerring attention to detail, his ability to frame a scene is fluid and innate. People go to film school for years for one third of what obviously comes naturally to him. From the first scene to the last, the film pulsates with a lyrical quality that renders it a true work of art and not just another movie. He has certainly set the bar very high for himself. Directorial debuts such as these, are rare indeed. We’re not talking Redford in Ordinary People because for more than 20 years he stood in front of the camera. Ford’s screenplay adapted from a source that many considered unfilmable is yet one more achievement. The art direction is another major player in the film and it is spectacular, indeed. Both interiors and exteriors brim with authenticity and impeccable taste. The same is true of the music score by Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi. Though somewhat minimalist in nature it was far warmer and more melodic with just the right amount of melancholy underpinnings. Why this film wasn’t showered with Oscar nominations I’ll never understand because it more than deserves them. To say that I loved it, is an understatement. A Single Man is, without question, a true work of art.

Rating: 5 / 5

Colin Firth is superb in this film about a man dealing with loss. Firth does an excellent job of subtle character development as he plays a man overcome with grief to the point that he has become numb. But it is more than this for it is about the forces that pull us into death to join those that have gone before us and the beautiful forces of life that pull us toward life, to keep going for anther day to enjoy the gift of existence. It is the story of an English professor in a community college in the 1960s who is trying to get through another day as his memory takes him back to conversations and intimacy with his deceased lover, Jim. Jim, played by Matthew Goode, was his partner for many years, and now, left alone, the title “A Single Man” has multiple meanings. George Falconer is still connected to the world, as evidenced by his friendship with Charley, an old girlfriend, who has become a confidant. Julianne Moore is great in this role. The character of George Falconer may be fearful of isolation and a solitary existence but he is also resistant to the attractions of the world, fully evident in the character of Kenny, a beautiful sensitive young student from one of his classes. Nicholas Hoult plays Kenny and it is not just Kenny’s beauty that retains George’s interest but the desire on the part of Kenny for insightful and meaningful interactions with a like minded soul. In fact the film shows George propositioned by a beautiful and yet vulnerable male hustler outside a liquor store. Worldly beauty doesn’t pull him back from the brink. It is Kenny’s more nuanced and meaningful overtures that act as a lifeline to a drowning man. This is a film for adults. Colin Firth’s portrayal of George is one of loss, and disorienting grief, covered over with rituals of control and order. He has the exceptional ability to be coolly handsome while revealing a boiling undercurrent just below his surface. Nicholas Hoult is also excellent, first appearing as an appealing young man in the classroom, but revealing more depth and desire of meaningful interaction with each scene. Julianne Moore, playing an isolated divorcee, plays one of those wonderful friends who is supportive and kind and still may have an unrevealed agenda. She plays the part well. The film is based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel of the same name, but be aware that changes have been made, and the film should be judged on its own merits since it has significantly adapted parts of the novel, including the ending. Visually, the film is stunning, for it captures the best sensibilities of late 1950’s modernism and design.
Rating: 5 / 5

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