Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Single Man

Directed by Tom Ford.
2009. Rated R, 99 minutes.
Colin Firth
Julianne Moore
Nicholas Hoult
Matthew Goode
Ryan Simpkins
Jon Kortajarena

In 1962, George Falconer (Firth) is a college professor and gay man who becomes distraught when his partner of nearly two decades dies in a car accident. He contemplates suicide, finds comfort in the company of his friend/drinking buddy Charley (Moore) and is pursued by a rather persistent young man who also happens to be one of his students. Persistent is putting it nicely. He’s actually stalked, but since George never complains it’s all good.

We watch our hero in flashbacks to happier times with his mate, seriously consider sticking the gun from his desk drawer in his own mouth and squeezing the trigger, get interrupted, have a laugh with Charley or flirt with Kenny (Hoult), the stalker. This actually happens on a loop, so it seems as if we watch the same series of events play out repeatedly. Since we can tell rather early where this is all leading, it seems rather pointless..

Opportunities to really engage us go by the wayside. Yes, he’s a gay man in early sixties. There’s even a few hints that this is indeed a more intolerant time than our own, but nothing really relevant to the film. As I mentioned before, the young student stalks him which he brushes off. What we have is a situation based on obsession by the younger party and lust by the older with neither aspect really being explored. Even worse, the ethics of a professor seeing a student is never even brought into question.

There are some good things going on. George’s scenes with Charley are easily the best in the movie. They share memories, wine, laughs, even a sexual past. What makes these work is the empathy we feel for her. She’s been unlucky in love and clearly pines for a man she can never have in the way she wants.

Through it all, the actors turn in some excellent work. Firth is very good at showing his emotions on his face without over-emoting. It’s a nice, subtle performance. Julianne Moore is excellent. In the unsung role of Jim, the deceased lover seen only in flashbacks, Matthew Goode is also very good.

In the end, it’s a decent watch, but it doesn’t realize it’s full potential. The story is told in a manner suggesting we’re watching something important but never gets around to what that might be.

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