A Single Man
Directed by Tom Ford
Stunning costumes, sets and production design almost overshadow fashion mogul and first-time filmmaker Tom Ford's adaptation (co-written with David Scearce) of Christopher Isherwood's eponymous 1964 novel, a seminal text of modern gay literature. The film unfolds over a day in Los Angeles during the Cuban Missile Crisis, though shell-shocked British professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) is still mourning the death of his partner Jim (Matthew Goode) several months earlier. Not surprisingly, Ford's largely self-financed film resembles the exquisite advertising spreads he's produced for Gucci and his own label. Entire passages and particularly unnecessary flashbacks might only have been shot to put more beautiful people against classic Hollywood backdrops in Ford-designed Mad Men costumes—many of the film's production designers work on the AMC series.
Thankfully, Colin Firth commands just the right balance of charm, lethargy and melancholy to wrest our attention from the film's superb visuals. He mutters to himself, tries fitfully to break out of his unshakable grief, glimpses portents of his own death in fleeting details, and teeters between wanting to start over and giving up his life in despair. As his boozy best friend and fellow expat Charley, Julianne Moore gets one scene with Firth and it's the film's best. Their characters' decades-long friendship (with benefits, early on) is apparent in every word and glance they exchange. By comparison, the pretty, boyish student (Nicholas Hoult) who pursues George seems like a prop. Still, Firth and Moore infuse Isherwood's Carver-esque story with such humor and sensitivity that Ford's slightly clumsy over-production is forgivable.
Opens December 11