by Scott Rice -
SGN Contributing Writer
A Single Man
Opening December 25
In a W magazine interview with Bridget Foley, neophyte director Tom Ford said, 'I want to make sure that people don't think this is a Gay film, because it is a universal film.'
In an interview with Variety's David Mermelstein, lead actor Colin Firth said, "It's a love story, and love is love. George misses the love of his life, and that's that. It could be a woman, it could be a man. His being Gay is not the salient feature of what Tom wanted."
You see, despite the fact that the male lead character has been in a relationship with another man for 16 years, despite the presence of a glamorous fag-hag, despite the fantasy boy with impossible blue eyes and a tendency to remove his shirt, despite the perfectly tailored suits and '60s couture, and despite the exquisite art direction, don't be fooled; this is not a Gay film. I know this is not a Gay film because Tom Ford, Colin Firth, and everybody else keeps saying so.
At this point, you may think I don't like this film. If so, you are wrong. I love this film. I am not particularly ecstatic about how people associated with this film talk about it, but I love this film.
A Single Man, based on the Christopher Isherwood novel of the same name, is about George (Firth), a buttoned-down college professor who loses the love of his life after 16 years together. George drags himself through a day contemplating suicide, remembering his past, and loathing his future, a future without his beloved Jim (Matthew Goode). He is haunted by the suburban family next door, stalked by a flirty student (Nicholas Hoult), and comforted by his glamorous BFF Charley (Julianne Moore).
Get ready for some extremely Gay, and effusive, praise. A Single Man is close to cinematic perfection. Every scene, every element within every scene, is purposeful and relevant. The architecture, the interior design, and, yes, the costume design are aesthetically and narratively fabulous. The composition, the lighting, the overall photography, are all well-executed and pleasing. The editing is seamless and smart. This is a beautiful film to look at, and the visual elements hide secrets that are terrifically fun to uncover.
The story, while universal, is unique in its subtle honesty about the tremendous and overwhelming impact of loss. The basic elements of storytelling are executed with polished confidence.
Living with another person for 16 years is an odd proposition. For every romantic story ever told about falling in love and living happily ever after, there are a million couples who have failed in the seemingly simple act of sharing their lives. Even couples who find a way to make it work do so with a healthy dose of compromise, splashed with a hint of denial. A Single Man illustrates the incoherent world of a lover left behind.
The ending is perfect and unexpected - no easy task given the storyline. I couldn't wait to see how they tied things up. I suspected the writers had painted themselves into a narrative corner. However, in a deft move, the ending is surprising, real, and a tiny bit transcendent.
Firth isn't an extraordinary-looking man. He is quite average looking, in fact. This probably keeps him from getting A-list roles. It's nice to see an excellent actor get a chance to prove his mettle, and Firth makes the most of it.
George is repressed and hopelessly formal in that obsolete (even in 1962) English way. He comes to the world as an observer who feels slightly uncomfortable at the prospect of taking action. When he tries to take action, the results are fitful and mixed. Firth, with expert reserve, never lets George's circumstance become melodramatic. The power of his devastating loss bubbles up through the fabric of his impeccably tailored suit.
Julianne Moore, as always, is sublime as Charley, the beautiful gal-pal party girl just tipping past full bloom. Charley is in love with George and deals with her own sense of loss as she ponders her own life and what might have come from her youthful dalliance with her Gay friend, if only he hadn't been so Gay.
Nicholas Hoult is Kenny, the sometimes starry-eyed and sometimes wily college student whose game is tough to figure out. Hoult is best remembered by American audiences as the cute kid from the Hugh Grant vehicle About a Boy, but better known to teenage Brits as the morally ambiguous and sexually fluid Tony Stonem from the BBC hit series Skins. Hoult is a handsome young man and a solid actor whose character keeps us guessing to the end.
Have I covered all the bases? Have I explicated every way in which this film is superb? Probably not, but suffice to say, from the casting to the acting to the music to the art direction to the photography to the writing to the editing to the direction by fashionista-turned-director Tom Ford, the movie is done well. This is not a vanity project by the self-absorbed designer who saved Gucci; Ford is the real deal.
So to Ford and Firth and everyone else denying the Gayness of A Single Man, let me set you, uh, straight. You have taken a sweet and romantic tale of love and tragic loss and most certainly a universal story and you have turned it into a wonderful Gay film. Your movie is magnificently Gay from first frame 'til last. And not to go too Gertrude Stein on your asses, but your movie is regular in being Gay, it has little things that are things in being Gay, many little things that are things in being Gay, the movie is Gay everyday, it is regular, it is Gay, it is Gay the same length of time every day, it is Gay, it is quite regularly Gay (sorry, Gertrude). Mr. Ford, your movie is Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay. All the denial in the world will not change that. Gay.
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