A review: “A Single Man” – 2009, Dir. Tom Ford – with Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, and Mathew Goode.

I endeavoured to a double feature today, seeing both “Crazy Heart” and “A Single Man“.  My first review is of Tom Ford’s “A Single Man”.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film.  I was looking forward to it almost as much as I was looking forward to seeing “Crazy Heart”.  This film blew me away.  This is Tom Ford’s first outing as a filmmaker (his previous occupation was that of a fashion designer at Gucci, and is credited in saving the company).  This film is brilliant in its color scheme and art direction.  The film is ultra aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but not overwhelming.  The entire film is saturated in color, and brings forth the minute details of the life.  Colin Firth stars in the day in a life of a closet homosexual who is a college professor in California.  We witness this day from the start, George waking up, haunted by the death of his sixteen year partner Mathew Goode.  George is in perfect isolation inside his home, while mentally preparing himself to face the world, face the day.  We see George preparing for his day, awaking, shaving, sitting at the breakfast table.

Colin Firth as George in "A Single Man".

I admit that I’m not well versed on Colin Firth’s filmography, I had seen him in “Love Actually” and known that he was in the Bridget Jones films, but had never seen them.  Firth absolutely brought me to my knees by his performance in the film.  He takes George in a direction that he needed to go.  He brought so much humanity and life into this character.  I felt an emotional connection with Firth in the film, by Firth baring his own soul, opening his heart and transforming into George.  It’s a beautiful showboat of a performance that is so rare to see, it is fact magical to watch.  Firth completely breaks your heart in this film.  He made this character real, instead of just being another character in another work of fiction.  This, by far, is the best performance of a lead actor this year (granted I still haven’t seen Freeman or Day-Lewis yet).  Firth deserves the Academy Award for his brilliant portrayal.

Not only is Firth breathtaking, but Moore and Goode deliver outstanding performances as well.  Mathew Goode plays George’s longtime partner, who while driving to Denver to visit his mother gets into a fatal accident in a snow storm.  Goode is seen through George’s reminiscences of the past, his fond and beautiful memories of Jim.  George emulates his way through his day-to-day routines frequently stopping at certain points when he notices something, remembers something about Jim.  Goode’s performance is so excellent. I am astounded that there isn’t any buzz around his supporting performance.  Jim is George’s lighthouse in humanity, he is the one thing that George enjoys and can be himself with.  Upon receiving the phone call about Jim’s accidental death, George visits his old friend from England that lives in California too, Charlotte (Julianne Moore).

Moore commands the few scenes that she’s in.  She is still sexy and ravishingly beautiful in her Jackie Kennedy style fashion.  She is devoted to George, and they share a physical – as well as emotional past.  It’s amazing how Moore finds her way into these art films, these melodramatic reworkings such as “Far From Heaven”, “The Hours”, and the magnificent “I’m Not There”.  Moore has this unique ability to perform on all cylinders yet allow Firth to dominate the scene, allow Firth to not be overshadowed by her raw talent.

Colin Firth and director Tom Ford.

The factor that really shows us the story is the cinematography, the editing, the costume design, the art direction – I could go on and on about how visually appealing the film is, but I won’t.  It’s amazing how Ford lets us pay attention to the smaller details of the story.  He showed us much, mainly in close-up shots that are plentiful, but not overused.  None of the detail, or any of what we’re shown feels forced, it doesn’t feel contrived.  I am speechless on why Tom Ford isn’t getting more credit, why Tom Ford won’t compete with Cameron and Tarantino for the directing Oscar.  I can’t imagine what Ford could possibly follow-up this stellar debut with.  Then again, maybe he won’t.  Which would be the bigger cinematic crime?

Rating:  10/10.


Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

3 thoughts on “A review: “A Single Man” – 2009, Dir. Tom Ford – with Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, and Mathew Goode.”

  1. Nice review. I agree with Sloat’s statement about his next movie. This must have been a pretty personal project for him, and I would be surprised to see him fully commit himself to filmmaking. I just think the fashion world has been too good to him and he wouldn’t be able to turn his back on it in favor of becoming a full-time movie director. Those jobs are just too involving and time consuming to continue with both of them. Then again, I don’t know him so how should I know?

  2. This one is all about Firth and Goode for me. People tend to think of Firth as Mr. Darcy, but he’s taken much riskier parts — just give “Apartment Zero” a watch and you’ll agree. He’s got boatloads of talent, and what he does here is just plain Oscar-worthy. Much as I loved Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart,” Firth deserved that award. He broke my heart all to pieces.

    There were two things I did not like about the film: Julianne Moore (she’s done better than this, way better) and the overly stylized look. Yeah, I know Tom Ford’s a fashion designer so everything had to be fashion-y and flawless, but all that artifice nearly detracted from Firth’s awesome performance.

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