A Single Man (2009)


If gay means happy, then why is everybody so damn muggy?

Torn apart by the shattering impact of the death of his long-time lover, college professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) experiences the most transitional day of his life, blending past and present, desire and despair, and discovering that love persists even after the object of love is gone.

Way back when in 2009 when this film was making it’s whispers of Oscar-talk for Firth, I really wanted to go see it but didn’t have a car, didn’t know where to see it, and even worse, didn’t really have the time to make out of my day, to go see an art-film like this. However, almost four years later, and with a car, with an idea of where to see it, and with plenty of time in my day, I’ve finally seen it and I’m really pissed at myself for missing-out all these years. Boo, the 16-year-old version of myself!

This movie marks the filmmaking debut of designer Tom Ford and you can totally tell that this guy has had something, no matter how big or little, with the world of designing just by looking at a single-frame of this movie. Everything is so polished, so lavish, so classy, so jazzy, and so beautifully, that you really feel like you are in the 60’s, watching a real story play-out in front of your own eyes. At first, it may seem like the movie is a bit too artsy-fartsy and way too happy with itself, but after awhile, the constant stylized-montages and changes in color, really make sense to the story and actually change the mood of what you are about to see. Yeah, Ford may be obsessed with making things look purrty, almost a bit too purrty, but there is absolutely no problem whatsoever, with keeping a person’s eyes on the screen, especially if your material is weak.

However, you don’t have to worry about that instance here, because the material is very strong in the way it always keeps you riveted and always keeps you interested in what’s going to happen. What I liked so much about this movie, is how simple the story is and yet, it’s always so intriguing into seeing where it goes with itself. You get to see this one man, who’s so heart-broken, who’s so sad, and who’s in so much pain, and you get take a glimpse inside a day of his own life and see where his mind goes throughout the day’s events, and how this one day shapes the rest of his life. We get a crap-ton of memories, flash-backs, and surreal, dream-like sequences, but they all fit within the context of the story and what Ford is going for and it really surprised the hell out of me.

Why Firth was never asked to be Bond, is really beyond me.
Why Firth was never asked to be Bond, is really beyond me.

The feelings you get with this story aren’t life-changing, but they are at least relate-able  considering that this man has lose the love of his life and still has no idea what to do with it. Quite frankly speaking, I think we can all relate to that idea and message, so to see this one man, who we just meet, go throughout his day and struggle with that hurt in his heart and reserve in his step, it’s truly believable to see and very understood. Never has a flick really been so simple like this, yet, make it so much more than what it’s plot seems to out-line. I don’t know if we have Ford to thank for that, or the source material he adapted this from, but I know one person we can thank: Mr. Colin Firth, himself.

Before King George VI, and before he has become to be known as the most-lovable British man on the face of the planet, Colin Firth was one of those supporters you would see in British rom-coms like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Love Actually, and more or less, came-off as the thinking’s man Hugh Grant that just never really got the shot to take a film, that he so rightfully desired. Here, as George Falconer (pretty boss name to have on your birth certificate), Firth gets to show everybody why he deserves that shot and shows us all why he can do almost anything and everything, with one, simple look on his face. This performance isn’t all about theatrics, it isn’t all about him yelling and screaming the whole time, and it sure as hell isn’t about him just breaking down every five-seconds so we get the idea that he’s sad, this is more of a performance that’s all about being subtle and understated, while still making us feel something for this guy, that we literally just met right-off-the-bat.

Still, as much as you may feel bad for this guy and all that he’s going through, Firth still has plenty of charm and wit to him to where you really feel like he’s the type of sad-sack you would want to cheer-up, whether it be sexual or just a regular, shared-brewskie at the bar. Firth has that every-day man, sense of likability to him that works so damn well with this role and it’s a real wonder why it took him so freakin’ long to nab a leading-role in a flick like this. I would hate to sound cliche and obvious by stating that George Falconer was the role Firth was born to play, but after seeing this flick and seeing all that he can do with a simple-script like, it would be damn-near impossible to state anything different. If Jeff Bridges didn’t get the pity-win for Crazy Heart that year, you can bet your sweet ass that Firth would have been the next in-line for that win.

If that sweater doesn't spell out, "G-A-Y", then I have no clue what will.
If that sweater doesn’t spell out, “G-A-Y”, then I have no clue what will.

Since Firth is so damn good as Falconer and just about steals this movie from underneath his feet, the rest of the cast sort of pales in-comparison and that’s a problem when you have a film like this that relies so heavily on everybody else coming in to spice the story up away from Falconer. Julianne Moore is surprisingly raw as Falconer’s bestie/ex-lover, Charley, and is very interesting and fun to watch in a role where she just lets loose on all of her grubbiness and grit, but also feels like she should have had more to do here. She shows-up for a scene or two, does her vulnerable-act, and is essentially gone from the rest of the movie. That’s not so bad since Firth is a revelation to watch, but the film would have definitely been a lot better had they given more scenes to him and Moore together. Then again, it’s not a terrible thing when you have an actor like Firth and performance like his.

Matthew Goode only shows-up in flash-backs as Falconer’s deceased-lover, and brings enough heart and warmth to a character we really need to know more about to fully invest ourselves, and does a good job. But like Moore, I just wish there was more of him to fully get us going. And lastly, Nicholas Hoult plays a student of Falconer’s that seems to be almost obsessed with him and constantly stalks and asks him questions, that would make any person just cringe right-away. Hoult definitely gets a chance to show everybody that he’s grown-up (especially when he’s butt-naked a few times), but that’s about it as the kid definitely left his acting-skills with him back in his adolescence. It’s not that he’s a bad actor, it’s just that this character is so one-note and obvious that once you start to see his true colors pop-out, it’s so glaring that it’s distracting to the rest of the film that seemed to be all about having subtle, but heartfelt emotions about life and love. Hoult definitely looks the part of a confused, 60’s-era college-student, but doesn’t feel like it and when you put him up-against Firth, it’s too obvious to set-aside.

Consensus: Thanks to an amazing performance from Colin Firth and an artful direction from Tom Ford, A Single Man may be simple, but still has the power of a wrecking ball to hit your brain and your mind with it’s ideas and thoughts about life, love, and heart-ache, but yet, also feels like it could have been so much more if there had been more time and grace given to everything else.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Cloudy day, isn't it?"
“Awfully cloudy day, isn’t it?”
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19 comments

  1. As much as I love The Dude, I still think it was a big mistake to give him the oscar instead of Firth in 2009. His performance in this movie was one of the most subtly moving portrayals of grief I have ever seen, I’m glad to see you enjoyed it as well, great review 🙂

  2. I liked Firth’s work here even more than in The King’s Speech. I love A Single Man, such a stylish, lovely film and the music and cinematography are gorgeous.

    • He is better here than he was in the King’s Speech, but I could see why they would snub him out of this one for Bridges. Still, him aside, the movie is pretty damn beautiful to just stare at.

  3. Colin Firth was delving into emotions that I didn’t know he had. The movie was my #5 film of 2009. He knew that a fashion designer would make a beautiful film with solid performances by Firth and Julianne Moore.

  4. I still remember how till present day, Colin’s performance in this film is been raved about. I haven’t watched it yet but intend to watch soon having read your review. Good one

  5. Great review Dan. I adored this film. Didn’t think I would and put it off for ages but when I finally got around to it, it blew me away. Gorgeous production design and top class performance from Firth. As much as I liked seeing Bridges win the award, it was very unfair on Firth. He was much better here than he was in The Kings Speech. And I don’t normally take to him either.

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