Thursday, January 28, 2010
A SINGLE MAN / ***½
Distributor: Weinstein Company
Release Date: December 11, 2009
Running Time: 99 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Colin Firth is one of those actors that seemed to be constantly underappreciated. He’s appeared in Best Picture winners like “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love,” and audience pleasers like “Love, Actually” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” Yet he still seems to be the kind of actor that people recognize his face but can’t recall his name.
Now he’s finally landed the role of a lifetime, as George Falconer in Tom Ford’s adaptation of “A Single Man,” from the novel by Christopher Isherwood. George is the Single Man referred to in the title, and he’s been as such for the last eight months since his lover Jim (Matthew Goode) was killed in a car crash. The film takes place in 1962, in the throes of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which mirrors the conflict inside of George.
George mourns silently, while presenting a stoic front. He still dresses impeccably, speaks with dignity, and has no public outbursts. He keeps his grief inside, while maintaining his duties as a college professor. He keeps up appearances in front of his neighbors the Strunks (Ginnifer Goodwin and Teddy Sears).
But inside, George is undergoing turmoil. It feels like the loss of a lover coupled with a midlife crisis. What’s interesting about “Single Man” is that his sexuality is hardly emphasized. Ford certainly doesn’t shy away from showing it, but this is a movie about a Man trying to find his way after losing a lover, not a Gay Man recovering from the loss of his lover. There’s a big difference.
The film focuses on two current relationships in George’s life – one an old one, one brand new. The old one is with Charlotte (Julianne Moore), a woman that George slept with in his younger days and maintains an odd friendship with. She still seems affected by the fact that George could love someone other than her, and even tries to seduce him.
The other, newer relationship is with Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), one of his students. Hoult is known primarily as the boy in “About a Boy,” has done a substantial amount of growing up since then and is now a Man. He pursues a friendship with George, but it doesn’t take exactly the route I expected.
One tactic Ford used which I found rather inspired was the color palette. When George is in his normal state, the film is awash in pale colors. When he encounters something that excites him or makes him happy, the colors bloom. It’s an effective technique for showing George’s emotional state.
At the core of “A Single Man” is a dynamite performance from Firth. He’s sure to be rewarded with an Oscar nomination this Tuesday morning, and he had a lot of momentum before Jeff Bridges came in and swiped it. Even so, the work by Firth is not to be ignored – this is one of the best performances of the year.
Theater: The Ruth Sokolof Theater, Omaha, NE
Time: 730 pm
Date: January 27, 2010