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Friday, December 11, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW
A Single Man

A Day In The Life, On Death's Trap Door


Life's crossroads: Colin Firth in the performance of the year as George Falconer, a British college professor whose partner's death has scarred each day of his life in Tom Ford's film "A Single Man", which opened today and expands on Dec. 25.  The Weinstein Company

By Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Friday, December 11, 2009

Colin Firth gives the best performance of his acting career in fashion designer Tom Ford's amazing directing debut "A Single Man", based on the same-titled novel by Christopher Isherwood, acting surely hard to top for Oscar honors come March.  Mr. Firth ("When Did You Last See Your Father?") plays George Falconer, a college professor in L.A. in late November 1962 hanging on by a thread after his partner Jim ("Watchmen"'s Matthew Goode) is killed in a car accident.  It's a month after the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis and George, struggling to find a reason to exist, endures a private hell he's been preparing to end.

On a single day, Friday, November 30, 1962, George swims around in his mind, near-catatonic in a world that for him has been frozen in time, reduced to gray memories and heartbeats of emotion.  For him the immediate future is a frightening proposition.

Twenty-eight-year-old Spaniard Eduard Grau's top-notch, stylized cinematography represents the living, breathing synapses of a soul scarred forever by loss.  Mr. Grau displays a catalog of Hitchockian "Vertigo" shots and Mr. Ford cements appreciation for the legendary filmmaker with a shot of a building-size wall showing Janet Leigh's eyes from "Psycho".  Vibrant visuals from Mr. Grau crystallize the vacillations of George's mood.  George's soul is flickering with life yet floating toward death.

Mr. Firth's exquisite acting is composed almost exclusively of silences and reactions to them, as well as reactions to what is going on in his head.  One scene that isn't funny becomes so and features a sleeping bag.  The scene epitomizes just how great Mr. Firth's work is.  The scene occurs in silence and there's never an attempt to play it for laughs yet you will be laughing -- even if uncomfortably.

With few exceptions the internal monologue of despair and remembrance in Mr. Isherwood's novel is retained on the big screen.  Mr. Firth plays the emotionally paralyzed George as a resigned, defeated man postponing his endeavor to avoid life rather than as a tragic figure victimized by life's cruel blows and circumstances.

There are flickers of hope for George as two people emerge in his life as guardian angels, last-stop pillars in the attempt at renewal of a life consumed by pain.  One is Charley (Julianne Moore), a British would-be socialite whose sin is Tanqueray gin.  The other is Kenny (a great performance by Nicholas Hoult), a student in George's class who wants to look at life in a refreshing way -- in contrast to George -- who wants to remember how life was.

Mr. Ford excels tremendously in the direction of the story he writes, which has abundant passion and spirit.  There's beauty and eloquence in his image-making.  And when this philosophical film seems to devolve into melodrama it puts on the brakes.  Shot in 21 days and edited over six months, "A Single Man", which opened in selected cities today including San Francisco, doesn't wallow in self-pity and resists heavy sentimentalizing.  It is at once a lucid, literate and intelligent adult work filled with humor, philosophy, love and a joie de vivre, and it's one of the year's best films.
 

With: Jon Kortajarena, Paulette Lamori, Ryan Simpkins, Ginnifer Goodwin, Teddy Sears, Paul Butler, Aaron Sanders, Keri Lynn Pratt, Lee Pace, Marlene Martinez and Nicole Steinwedell.

"A Single Man" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for some disturbing images and nudity/sexual content.  The film's running time is one hour and 39 minutes.       


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