CAPSULE: A day in the life of a man in deep depression. Directed by first-timer Tom Ford and based on a short novel by Christopher Isherwood, A SINGLE MAN gives us an up-close and very personal look at a college professor who recently has lost the meaning of his life when he lost his gay lover. We follow him through a single day as he looks just once more for love and for life or the strength to end it all. There are good performances by both Julianne Moore and Colin Firth. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
A spoiler follows the main body of the review.
For George Falconer (played by Colin Firth) each new day is an ordeal--living in agony and in L.A. He starts the day putting on the right fashionable clothing that he uses like a mask to hide the pain going on inside him. He looks longingly at a gun and the escape that it could bring. George was deeply and profoundly in love for many years with the handsome and callow Jim (Matthew Goode), but Jim died in a car crash on an icy road and George's life just crumbled. Now he is going through the motions of his day. He teaches his class in literature and almost by habit notices the good-looking men he sees around him. He goes to a liquor store and sees another hunk there. On the other hand the women around him seem just collections of pieces to him. The camera suggests that he cannot even look at women as whole people. When he sees them he sees their hair or their mouths or their eyes--especially their eyes. He is out of touch with people and living within his mind. The camera captures his mind fog with slow motion close-ups of people he does not really care about. In other films this same camera technique has been used to show people who are drugged. And it is showing him almost in the same state.
There is no love left in George. The last living person whom George cares about was his long-time friend, Charley (Julianne Moore with a fairly convincing British accent). If George could have loved a woman it would have been Charley. He even gave it a try once, but when it failed it really ruined both lives. Charley is now always either mostly drunk or fully drunk. She still sees George for friendship or dinner, but she is only teasing herself.
Colin Firth seems to have made his reputation mostly playing solid, prosperous "Mr. Right" types like the two Darcys in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY. Tom Ford co-authored the screenplay as well as directed the film, his first. His real business is as a fashion designer. His visual sense can be seen in George's unrealistically fabulous house. Just where George gets to wherewithal for a house like this on a college professor's salary is open to conjecture. The film has technical problems. We are told that it is taking place on November 30, 1962, but the television tells us that Cuban Missile Crisis is occurring. Actually the crisis ended October 27th. We are told that George and Jim had been together for something like fifteen years, but they appear not to have aged at all since they first met, as we see in flashback.
This film is based on a short novel by Christopher Isherwood whose book I AM A CAMERA was made into a film and then remade as a play and a film as CABERET. Curiously, he also wrote the screenplay for the TV miniseries "Frankenstein: The True Story."
This is a film of gay angst. There are some directors who might have tried to make a statement that George's pain is at root caused by intolerance. Tom Ford does not do that. Instead we just seem to have two people, George and Charley, who are just plainly dysfunctional. They are free to make their own mistakes, and they really do make them. I would rate this film a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Spoiler... Spoiler... Spoiler... Spoiler... Spoiler... Spoiler... The ending of the film is telegraphed. Early in the film we see George has a physical problem that seems independent of all his other problems. That then is dropped until the very end. Curiously enough it makes the whole film a variation on a familiar O Henry story.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1315981/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1218217-single_man/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper