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A Single Man (2009)

January 19, 2010

9/10 Days in the Life

Deserves more than just the Best Actor Oscar.

A Single Man is about a middle-aged college professor in the ’60s struggling to cope with the death of his partner of 16 years.

Pretty straightforward but it’s got a lot to say.

So far, this is the one movie that’s made me regret jumping the gun after putting up my Best of ’09 list before seeing everything that was out there. With that being said, the necessary changes have been made; such is the wonderful advantage of being a site administrator. Let’s just hope Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel doesn’t make me have to backpedal any further than I already have.

The best place to start here has gotta be with Colin Firth as our single man, George Falconer (what a great name). Up until now, I’ve never thought much of Firth and have come to categorize him as the thinking man’s Hugh Grant. Don’t know how I managed to come to that conclusion, but I’m thinking it has something to do with Love Actually being the only other movie I’ve seen him in. So, part of the reason I was so impressed by Firth’s performance was probably due my totally ungrounded opinion of him, but most of it is because he actually happens to be one damn good actor.

Firth is outstanding because his is a very subtle role that complements the subtle power of the script he’s working with. You watch him and you believe he’s real, that behind his collected exterior lies a complex and emotionally battered individual just trying to get through one more day in a life he no longer wants any part of. He’s not eccentric and he has no illusions about who he is or the circumstances he’s found himself in, he’s the quiet everyman and he’s just trying to deal. That’s the real beauty of the Falconer and Firth plays him like a fiddle. It doesn’t take long to realize how utterly lost in the character Firth is, and the minute that moment comes around you’ll be wondering why the Academy even bothered to nominate anyone else.

Oh, right. Money, that’s why.

But A Single Man also features some pretty fantastic performances by Julianne Moore as Falconer’s ex-lover and only friend, Matthew Goode as his deceased partner, and out of nowhere comes Nicholas Hoult as his student (a.k.a: the kid from About A Boy – time’s apparently been mighty kind to him). Nice to see a movie where the standout performance doesn’t overshadow everyone else because they all happen to be damn good, too.

This is also the debut by writer/director Tom Ford and he really establishes himself as something fresh. Maybe it’s just because everything from the clothes to the booze to the music was way, way cooler in the ’60s, but good lord does Ford make his movie look like Mad Men in the suburbs. When it first starts up, F0rd’s style comes off a little too artsy-fartsy as the whole thing takes on a frightening resemblance to a French perfume commercial, but as the plot progresses and the script fleshes out, the look and feel of it all becomes one more of substance over style and you come to realize that the words “J’adore” or “Chanel No. 5” aren’t going to pop up at any second. When push comes to shove, Ford’s eye ends up being more of a pro than a con thanks to a conscious effort on his part to tone it down after a while, and considering this is his first go, it’s hard to knock him for making such a damn good movie.

And he’s got this strange thing with shooting extreme close-ups on everyone’s eyes, but I’ll leave that one up to you Film Majors out there to dissect. Kept making me think of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg in Gatsby, feel free to use that one in your paper.

But I think what surprised me the most about A Single Man was how much I was affected by its script. The only thing I was expecting out of this movie was a great show by Firth, and while it’s not often I come across a performance like his, I’ve come to find that it’s even harder to come across a script that has so much to say about what really matters in life without beating me over the head with it. So much can be said without saying anything at all and that’s where this movie shines the most, not enough folks in the movie biz get that. There were moments like that in Benjamin Button, but this one really shook me up, in a good way.

It’s hard to get into it without seeing it for yourself, but A Single Man has some of the most profound and affecting things to say about the little things in life that make it all worth while that I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across. It’s too bad this thing isn’t going to get the credit or publicity it deserves because everything about it is a home run from the cast to the writing. Not sure how much longer it’s gonna be around, but do yourself a favor and make an effort to get out there and find it before the Oscars come a-callin’. This one blew me away.

And so I’m off to legally change my name to George Falconer…

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010 10:06 am

    Great reveiw of a truly great film. I especially love your bit come to realize that the words “J’adore” or “Chanel No. 5” aren’t going to pop up at any second…since I actually said something very similar in my last podcast episode where we discussed this film.

    Here’s hoping more people get a chance to see it!

  2. Branden permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:12 pm

    I was waiting in anticipation for this movie to come out last week. This is a great movie that is being overshadowed by the Oscar bait movies that are not as deserving.

    This is a subtle with some beatuiful performances. It’s not beating you over the head with the subject matter. Ford lets it happen naturally.

    Damn it! I love this movie. More people need to watch it.

  3. nothatwasacompliment permalink
    January 19, 2010 2:38 pm

    i’ve been thinking about watching this one. i guess i should get around to it…

    oh, and “Let’s just hope Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel doesn’t make me have to backpedal any further than I already have” is the kind of line that keeps me returning to your reviews every day.

    • January 19, 2010 2:54 pm

      Haha, thanks, man. Definitely give this one a look before it’s gone, highly recommend it.

  4. January 19, 2010 6:08 pm

    How cool was that cameo from Jon Hamm?

    • January 19, 2010 6:43 pm

      Wow, I just IMDB’d it and that was indeed a super cool cameo from the Hamm. Didn’t even catch that, good looks, Fitz.


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