California Literary Review

Movie Review: A Single Man

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December 10th, 2009 at 11:27 pm

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Movie Poster: Fantastic Mr. Fox
A Single Man

Directed by Tom Ford
Screenplay by Tom Ford, David Scearce
Based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood

George – Colin Firth
Charley – Julianne Moore
Kenny – Nicholas Hoult
Jim – Matthew Goode
Carlos – Jon Kortajarena
Alva – Paulette Lamori

CLR Rating: ★★★★½

Movie Still: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Tom Ford Successfully Transitions from Fashion to Film

Actor Colin Firth should be handed an Oscar right now for his astounding portrayal in Tom Ford’s A Single Man.

His performance is just one of the many impressive aspects of the film, which marks the feature directorial debut of Ford. Yes, that Tom Ford – the fashion designer who made Gucci cool in the 1990s and currently has his own Tom Ford label.

Based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel, the film is set in the 1960s and takes place over the course of one day. It follows George (Firth), a gay professor who decides he can no longer continue living with the heartbreak of having tragically lost his longtime partner (Matthew Goode). In what is his last day on Earth, George spends it tying up loose ends without letting anyone know his real plan.

Not even his best friend, Charley (a flawless Julianne Moore), his one-time lover in their younger days, is aware of George’s decision. Charley herself is on the verge of a breakdown as she is coming to terms with getting old, being alone and feeling that the best as already come to pass. Surely the constant drinks in her hand do nothing to assuage these feelings. Nevertheless, she puts the day’s focus on planning a dinner for her and George, oblivious that this will be the ‘last supper.’

Yet there is one person who notices that something is amiss with George. His teenage pupil Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who sits through George’s lectures with his girlfriend, but feels a strong pull towards his teacher. Curious, innocent and angelic, Kenny’s presence throws an unexpected wrench in George’s day. The effects are far more lasting than both could ever imagine.

Firth has never been better. The scene where he gets the phone call of Jim’s death is absolutely riveting. Without moving his body, with very little facial expression and barely any dialogue, Firth is able to convey how in one instant, George’s life has been indelibly altered. Though on the surface George is very calm and collected, Firth has an ability to simultaneously show us a soul that is screaming in agony.

Hoult bring a gentleness and innocence to Kenny, a part that contrasts nicely with Firth’s introverted and private George.

The young actor, best know for playing the cherubic-faced child opposite Hugh Grant in About A Boy not only shows he’s grown up into a handsome young man, but that he’s able to take on a subject matter antithetic to the comedy film that first made him famous.

Praise must go to Ford, who shows that he is not only an important force in fashion, but also has the potential to be a game-changer in film as well. As A Single Man’s director, writer and producer, Ford was clearly the driving force behind the project. It was he who optioned Isherwood’s novel and a completed screenplay by David Scearce, yet ultimately sat down to create his own adaptation.

The love that Ford poured in to the film certainly shows. Between the lighting, the art direction, and the costumes, along with the interjected flashbacks to George’s happier times with Jim – it’s obvious Ford planned every last detail as meticulously as George plans his own death. One almost has a better understanding of Ford as designer, as he no doubt brought the same high caliber standards to his clothes, fashion shows and ad campaigns as he did to his directorial debut.

If there is one criticism, it’s that the film is almost too beautiful – right down to the bit players and the homes the characters reside in. Yet in Ford’s defense, this is George’s last day alive and he is highly sensitive to everything around him, as he knows he will never see any of it again. Therefore, beauty jumps at him from everywhere. One can say it is George’s vision we see, not Fords or our own projections.

It is interesting to note that Ford actually paid for the film himself. After his financing fell out when the Lehman Bros. crash occurred last year, he ponied up the cash out of his own pocket, said to be in the $7 million range.

Ford also weathered cast changes in the major roles. Although Moore was the first actor to sign on, not everyone else came aboard so smoothly. Another actor was initially cast to play George, but he dropped out when the production schedule changed. The original actor cast to play Kenny simply decided to not show up to work five days before shooting. Luckily, one of the film’s producers, Chris Weitz – who co-directed and produced About A Boy – brought Hoult to Ford’s attention. Watching the final product, it’s hard to imagine that anyone other than this group of people could have put together such an eloquent and artistic film.

A Single Man Trailer

  • scott

    Does anyone know who the actor was that played Jim’s cousin on the phone call informing George of Jim’s death?

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