A Single Man – DVD Review

A Single Man has been praised for many things, mostly the superior performance by lead actor Colin Firth but also because of the extremely stylized direction by former fashion designer Tom Ford. While these two things are true the film feels more like a drawn out perfume commercial than a feature film.

Colin Firth stars as George, a college professor who is in mourning over the tragic loss of his partner of 16 years in a car accident. George is quietly lonely but he hides it well; nobody seems to know that he’s in such a state of depression except for a student of his, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult, UK’s Skins). Seeming to catch on to his professor’s mental state, he begins to show interest in George.

George’s only solace is his long time friend Charley (Julianne Moore), with whom he shared a brief affair when they were young. Charley is also lonely; her husband has just left her and her children are all grown. Because of her loneliness (and perhaps because of George’s as well) Charley is convinced that George will return her affections. He doesn’t but that doesn’t dissuade her.

In his partner’s absence, George comes to what seems to be a calm and rational decision to commit suicide. The film follows his progression and the events of what George feels to be the last day of his life.

These events unfold slowly throughout the entire duration of the film, making the one and a half hour run time seem much longer than it is. The film is anchored by the phenomenal performance by Firth, who can convey multiple emotions using only his eyes and a sly smile. George’s late partner (Watchmen‘s Matthew Goode) and the two actors have electric chemistry. The looks they share are the looks that are shared by any couple of any longevity who are comfortable with one other.

The tone of the film is depressing. The world that George lives in is less than perfect. 1962 isn’t the most accommodating year for homosexuals; it could have taken place in any year and still have been relevant. Based on a book of the same name by author Christopher Isherwood, it’s advantageous for Ford. His background comes into play here as this is a beautifully shot film that is uses slow, long close-ups a little too much.

A Single Man is a study in the difficult emotions of the human existence. An intriguing first effort for Ford, it’s garnered enough praise to make him a director worth watching in the future.

The film looks impeccable, even on DVD. The colors are bright, even though mostly black & white. But the sound is pretty awful. I had to turn it up fairly loudly to hear some of the dialogue.

Commentary with Tom Ford

The Making of A Single Man – Well it’s no wonder Ford’s film is so serious. Have you ever seen the look on his face when he speaks? Obviously he’s passionate about the material, but he is SO INTENSE. It is interesting to hear that the author Christopher Isherwood wrote about homosexuality in the 1960s like it was nothing. Just that they are people in relationships just like heterosexuals are. Very revolutionary for the time. Julianne Moore talks about how interesting her character is. (16:09)

TrailersThe Pillars of the Earth, Nine, Chloe, Nowhere Boy, Broken Embraces, The Runaways, Breaking Bad, Damages

It might sound like over-exaggerated internet speak to say that the highly praised film might seem more like a perfume commercial than a feature, but it’s really impossible NOT to think that while watching A Single Man. The score is beautiful but very emotionally heavy, and when it’s played over slow close-up shots of its perfectly coiffed actors, it’s hard not to giggle a little. Or maybe that’s just me. It seemed a little narcissistic of Ford, but he’s a fashion designer. It’s difficult for me to give A Single Man a solid recommendation, especially considering the recent discussion of Milk on this week’s Monday Morning Critic. If you take Sean Penn away from Milk, is it a good movie? And if you take Colin Firth away from A Single Man, is it still a good movie? In the case of Milk, I believe it is. In the case of A Single Man, without Firth, it’s more style over substance.

Sony Pictures presents A Single Man. Directed by: Tom Ford. Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult. Written by: Tom Ford (screenplay), Christopher Isherwood (novel). Running time: 99 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: July 6, 2010.