A Single Man (USA; 99 min.)

directed by: Tom Ford
starring: Colin Firth ; Julianne Moore; Nicholas Hoult; Matthew Goode; Jon Kortajarena
A Single Man

Michael says: "I'm glad I took the time to see this film a second time after seeing it in September in Toronto because I enjoyed it much more the second time allowing the minor issues that bothered me upon first viewing slip away. Fashion designer Tom Ford adapted this Christopher Isherwood novel from the early 60s for his directorial debut.  As you might expect, A SINGLE MAN is a visual feast, with beautiful clothes, and a designer’s eye to framing and layout.  There is also an incredible use of color saturation to convey emotional clarity as we follow George through one day of his life, still grieving two years after the death of his lover Jim.  Colin Firth is magnificent as a man lost in grief who has forgotten what it means to live, and Julianne Moore is fab as his best friend Charly, who feels life’s problems can be solved by a Silk Cut cigarette and a cold gin and tonic.  4 cats"

Bruce says: "High fashion designer Tom Ford feels that A SINGLE MAN is his best accomplishment.   Considering his history of success, that’s quite a boast.  Based on the Christopher Isherwood novel, Ford has taken some liberties with the original.  He has added suicide as a device to drive a plot, something that was not part of the source material.  He also made the ending less ambiguous than the novel.   I applaud the former but remain unsure as to whether the film really needed the ending Ford envisioned.  In addition, he has politicized some dialogue which I do find objectionable.  My beefs are minor in the light of Ford’s marvelous ability to infuse Isherwood’s character study with compassion through meticulous attention to detail, whether capturing the look and feel of the period or the often subtle facial expression which capture the inner thoughts of his characters.  Throughout Ford embodies his material with intelligence, sentiment and wit.

"A SINGLE MAN certainly marks a career pinnacle for Colin Firth, an accomplished British actor who has had a steady career in films that run the gamut from excellent to the not-up-to-par.  His character, George, is a British literature professor at a Southern California college.   The film is a day-in-the-life vehicle, following the novel in that respect.  Specifically, the day is November 30, 1962.  From being rudely awakened in the morning by a terrifying dream until he collapses into bed at the end of the day, we follow George around as he shares his thoughts with those he meets along the way and, on a more intimate level, shares what is going on in his head with the audience.  George is slowly dying of a broken heart and he is methodically determined to speed up the process.  George is not sloppy.  He even leaves instructions to tie his corpse's tie in a Windsor next to his suicide notes, letters to friends, insurance information, stock certificates and keys to various things. 

"Many moments in the day trigger thoughts of Jim (Matthew Goode), George’s partner of sixteen years, who died in a car accident along with their two dogs only one of which was found at the scene of the crash.   In the class room George discusses Huxley then abandons the discussion in favor of the metaphysical.  One young man named Kenny (Nicholas Hoult) approaches George with stars in his eyes.  Throughout the day Kenny reappears and becomes crucial to the story by the end.  George is having dinner with Charley (Julianne Moore) a romance from his youth and his best friend.  Now divorced, Charley is attached to the bottle and desperate for another man.  One of the bitterest moments in the film is when Charley says 'What you and Jim had as just a substitute for something else.'  Her drunken words are not particularly trustworthy.  From her body language it appears she has never stopped loving George.  On his way to dinner George meets Carlos a young Italian stud who tries to pick him up in the liquor store parking lot. 

"By day’s end George has experienced moments of clarity, each providing a life lesson of sorts.  Most come from unexpected places.  Carlos tells George 'Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty.'  Kenny teaches George about the future with oblique comments, 'I get stuck talking about the past.  I can’t wait for the present to be over.' 

"In addition to Firth’s brilliant performance, Julianne Moore is at her very best and the rest of the supporting cast is strong.  Isherwood reportedly wrote A Single Man after his lover Don Bachardy left him for a period of several months.  Fans of CHRIS AND DON: A LOVE STORY will be thrilled to see one of Barchardy's drawings casually placed in the film.   5 cats"

Diane says: "I'm wondering two things:

  1. would someone so grief-stricken as to be planning suicide be able to see all the glowing beauty that we see, I believe, through the main character's eyes?
  2. when we see Firth's face in gray tones and Kenny's (for example) in gold, has the film been manipulated after shooting or have the takes been shot differently? (Not sure if I'm asking the question right....)
"Good catch on the drawing, Bruce. IMDB trivia says that Don himself is in the teacher's lounge.

"I am keen to compare the screenplay to the novel and see the impact of Ford's changes. Great acting by Firth. Nice looking film, perhaps too nice? 4 cats so far, still thinking."

Peter says: "Given his background as a fashion director it's not surprising that Tom Ford, in his obsessive-compulsive roles as Producer/Director/Screenwriter (with David Scearce), has made a lovely-looking film. 

"As Bruce noted, the story unfolds through a day in the life of English ex-pat Colin Firth who plays a professor in 1962 Los Angeles.  He's still grieving the sudden death of his male lover of 16 years, of whom we see a number of affectionate flashbacks.  Julianne Moore plays his English, torch-bearing friend from their London days.  The film also boasts a flotilla of pretty actors who pop up regularly as plot points demand.

"Everything about this film has the sheen and attention to detail that you would expect from a former couturier.  In fact, the real stars of this film might be production and set designers Dan Bishop and Amy Wells, costume designer Arianne Phillips, and photography director Eduard Grau, all of whom make the look and feel of this film as important as the performances.

"I've always found Colin Firth's acting to be somewhat akin to Hugh Grant's - nice enough, but not very interesting.  Although Ford has written the part to milk Firth's loss for emotional depth, I found his performance about as deep as a syringe full of Botox®.  And while Julianne Moore is unquestionably one of the most interesting actresses in films, she's made-up here to look like Ann-Margaret in her heyday and used as a prop so that Ford could make a point.

"Nevertheless, this is the kind of film that awards are made for and there will be a plethora of nominations for this effort.  The visuals alone should win some (assuming AVATAR doesn't hoover everything up), but I confess I connected more with that mid-century house than the character who lived there.  3 1/2 cats"


Toni says: "What a universal film…I will admit that I balled my eyes out and agree that funny moments are the rare points where we begin to feel human again.  Great adapting, acting, art direction, makeup (Firth and Moore), etc.

"I woke up with one of those 'film hangovers' where you can’t get a film out of your head…5 Plus Cats!"

Marilyn responds: "Ditto....and I believe this is not the 'pinnacle' for Firth, it is another step on the ladder as he continues to reach his potential.  I only hope the parts come his way.  I like that 5+ cats rating..."