Sunday, December 13, 2009

'A Single Man'

Tom Ford's directorial debut 'A Single Man' opened in limited release on Friday and I enthusiastically attended a screening that night. Unfortunately I wasn't blown away or nearly as impressed with the film as many critics seem to be.
'A Single Man' tracks a day in the life of George Falconer (Colin Firth), a semi-closeted British college professor living in Southern California in the 1960s as he contemplates suicide. Structurally, the film flips back and forth between the present (where Falconer interacts with his students, neighbours, strangers and friends, specifically Julianne Moore) and his memories.
The film is beautifully shot and the art direction and wardrobe styling warrant the praise they are receiving. However, these elements are also the film's Achilles heels. Everything is so glossy and stylized that the film looks and feels like a fashion spread or advertisement and these elements detract from the emotional weight of the story. All the extras look like models and I found myself disengaging with the characters and their problems because my attention was being drawn to clothing or set pieces. In addition to the almost overwhelming stylization, special effects including super slow motion, heightened colour saturation and fades are employed with the intent to put us in Falconer's mind. Instead, though things look and sound great, it is distracting and as a result, the style of the film takes over its substance. Subtlety isn't what Ford is going for and his visual metaphors are also a little heavy handed.
Though Firth's performance is garnering all the accolades, I think the best thing about the movie is Julianne Moore's portrayal of the drunken, pathetic and fabulous Charley. She is luminous and vulnerable and funny and I wish her character had more screen time.
I appreciate that 'A Single Man' isn't your typical gay themed movie but at the same time, critics should ease up on heralding it as some kind of masterpiece.
Check out the trailer:

The End

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