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A Single Man More at IMDbPro »

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51 out of 84 people found the following review useful:

A glossy, muted 'Brokeback'

Author: Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California
8 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As his directorial debut designer Tom Ford has made a highly accomplished, lushly -- a little too lushly -- beautiful film about a gay man struggling with tragedy -- the recent death of his lover. The story, from Christopher Isherwood's elegantly simple novel of the same name, set in 1962, concerns an Englishman living in Los Angeles, a professor of literature, who, in Ford's version, lives in unreal splendor. He is like a Fifties fantasy of tasteful bachelorhood. His house resembles a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. He has an immaculately ordered wardrobe housed in a beautiful wooden dressing room. He drives a lean, classic Mercedes hardtop two-seater. Most elegant of all, he is a suave Colin Firth, whose understated suffering is tempered with good manners and restraint. Sweeping string music takes us back and forth between the present, as George Falconer (Firth) goes bravely through the day, and a halcyon past when he savored perfect moments with his lost companion of sixteen years, Jim (Matthew Goode, the movie 'Brideshead's' Charles Rider), a handsome young American met romantically outside a seaside bar wearing Navy whites, now dead in a car accident on a trip to visit family.

It's all too exquisite in its sweet sadness, and George's friend Charley (Julianne Moore), a boozy divorcée, also English, also lonely, lives in another kind of equally glamorous dream house, the glitzy overdecorated kind, a fitting showcase for a woman whose expensive clothes, beehive hair and elaborate makeup accompany a grand manner.

And though George is inconsolable, and his life now -- the story recounts only one day of it -- has been reduced to just going through the motions, he seems to be offered some choice opportunities to forget his troubles. He's being relentlessly stalked by a fresh-faced and pretty young male student called Kenny (Nicholas Holt, the BBC "Skins" star, like Goode actually English but playing American) who might be any gay teacher's fantasy. Coming out of a liquor store George encounters a to-die-for young Spaniard, Carlos (Jon Kortajarena, a former Ford model) a dreamy Mediterranean James Dean with a Castilian accent who's ready to jump into the Mercedes and into bed. These scenes are all in the novel, though one imagines George in casual tweeds and all the accouterments so splendidly on view are less significant in the book than what simply happens. Sometimes in this film the visuals completely take over.

Even George's suicide preparations are nice to look at, as well as genteel -- the way he's received politely by name at the bank when withdrawing valuables and arranges important papers and keys on the floor for people to find, leaving a handsome wad of cash for his irreplaceable Latina housekeeper. Charley is a great friend; her invitation to dinner tête-à-tête at her place causes George to put off self-immolation for a few hours and they share a discreet drunk together and have a wonderful laugh dancing the twist. This sequence is superbly done and Julianne Moore, an American playing a Brit, does some of her best acting ever.

If it feels overdone, on the other hand Ford's film is unquestionably cinematic in the way it drenches experience and memory in inter-cut images, and what could be more 1960 gay than remembering a beach scene with one's lover as if it had been photographed in black and white by the German Thirties sensualist Herbert List?

Even though it's a mite too gorgeous and glossy, this is an admirable and in some ways quite wonderful film, and that's because its emotions, however muted, seem real. Designer Tom Ford would not be expected to do things inelegantly. Gay man Tom Ford would not be expected to cast any but the most delicious young men. (Colin Firth isn't young, but his performance provides us with the richest depiction of an older gay man in film since John Schlesinger's Sunday Bloody Sunday.) If Ford overdoes the poshness, he doesn't distort or satirize the period. Though this is an immaculate world -- even a pesky little boy with a toy pistol is perfectly turned out -- there is real, believable suffering.

George has his 'Brokeback' moment, a flashback scene of the time eight months earlier when he got the phone call informing him, belatedly and with the unspeakable buttoned-down cruelty of the straight world of that era, of his longtime lover's death. If Colin Firth doesn't get an Oscar nomination on the basis of this scene alone, but also for all the richly modulated moments throughout the film, Hollywood will have performed another of its 'Brokeback' travesties -- proving that it only pretends to be gay-friendly but when it comes to hard truths prefers to look away. Because there's a lot of hard truth behind the gloss, about the "invisible" minorities George speaks of to his literature class on Huxley's 'After Many a Summer Dies the Swan,' about how it is to grab private happiness from a world of meanness, and about hedonism. Isherwood knew whereof he spoke, and Tom Ford, working with David Scearce on the screenplay, gets those parts absolutely right.

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19 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Life and Its Suffering Do Go On

Author: AlanSKaufman from Chicago, Illinois
20 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Loneliness and loss frame the movie A Single Man. George's life partner Jim dies in a car accident. George has lost his world and contemplates suicide while everyone around him is fearful that their world will end, too, during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

George's flashbacks with Jim focus on their personalities, rather than on their sex, unlike so many other movies of today, where "making love" predominates "love". Yet the emphasis centers on their good times together - almost too good to be true. Herein lies a paradox, because if it really was so, then George had a better life than most of us, and frankly, it's difficult to feel too sorry for him. Get on with your life, buddy, and be thankful for what you had!

On the other hand, after an emotionally arousing but apparently nonsexual encounter with Kenny (here again the theme of love versus making love), George puts away his gun and burns his letters of goodbye, only to then suffer a fatal heart attack. In his dying moments he reunites with his beloved Jim, but we can only speculate whether it's merely reveries or authentic life after death. The credits roll at this point, so we need also wonder about Kenny's state of mind when he finds George's body. Life and its suffering do go on.

The film's advertising is slightly misleading in that George is shown lying next to Charley, his woman friend with whom he had a past relationship. Sure, this is designed to attract straight viewers, but anyone hungry for psychologically rather than sexually mature scenes between a man and woman will find it here.

We are born single and usually die alone. A Single Man dramatizes our loneliness in a powerful and literally haunting way. I seriously recommend watching this film alone to let it capture you in its rumination.

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

An Unbearable Portrait of Grief

Author: Eumenides_0 from Portugal
10 March 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Colin Firth plays George Falconer, an English Literature teacher who wakes up ready to commit suicide. For the past eight months, George has been grieving the death of his lover, Jim, for the past 16 years. Unable to live without him anymore, George prepares his last day on Earth, which includes giving one last lesson to his class, on the subject of fear; buying bullets for his revolver; and at night having a final party with his best friend, Charley.

George just wants to get through the day and kill himself with dignity after the party. The movie basically follows him through the day as he makes his preparations, and the big question is, Is he really going to do it? The movie is not easy to watch. For one thing, it paints an unbearable portrait of grief. Colin Firth displays pain in his voice and face throughout most of the movie; even when he's smiling or seemingly content, there's in his eyes a vestige of sadness and weariness. Secondly, George is such an instantly likable character, it's painful to watch him going about his life knowing he wants to put an end to it. It's so easy to fall in love with him, that his pain becomes ours very quickly.

The simplicity of the movie's premise is made up by Firth's outstanding performance, and also by Julianne Moore's. She plays Charley, a woman he once dated, and the only person who knows he's homosexual. I don't know how long she is in the movie, perhaps 10 or 15 minutes, but in that short time she gives an amazing performance as a woman who doesn't have much to look for, like George, who doesn't have anyone else in her life, no dreams, no future, just memories of her good days with George.

Tom Ford also complements the movie by giving it a very distinctive visual style: pretty much every scene is unique in the way it looks and the way it is shot. One of my favorite examples is the way he portrays the cluster of emotions in George, visualizing his pain by showing imaginary scenes of him drowning. Not only is it a lovely metaphor, but also connects with a scene in the movie that is the closest thing to happiness George feels in it.

Although this was Tom Ford's debut movie, and he showed what a good filmmaker he can be, for me the revelation of this movie was Abel Korzeniowski, a Polish film composer who brings a unique sound of melancholy to the movie. How he was ignored by the Oscars is beyond me.

A lot of things in this movie were ignored by the Oscars this year, and yet I think this movie, being the intimate character study that it is, has better chances of outliving all other movies in competition in years to come. I hope so, because movies like this is the direction cinema needs to go in.

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22 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

As Powerful As It Gets

Author: aharmas from United States
12 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When this film was announced, I knew it would look fantastic, but I wasn't ready for the intensity of this production, the incredible performance by Colin Firth, and certainly, one of the best films of the year. "A Single Man" takes place during a single day in what might be the last day in the life o a devastated human being.

Framed with superb art direction, a keen eye for accurate recreation of a period long gone, and one of the most haunting scores in recent history, we see how George is going through the motions on his way to what he perceives as the solution to his sad situation. From the moment he wakes up to another miserable day, he has finally found a purpose, and this time, he has something to look forward to. Still, as unpredictable as life is, a series of events occur to have him pause and reflect on whether he's making the right decision.

It is as if divine intervention might offer him an opportunity to reconsider, or is it just a couple of disguised attempts from other people who look for something less profound. These are interesting moments in the film when a hustler and a young man try to connect with George, and he certainly seems to appreciate their attempts, but he also seems to question the sincerity of their respective motives, or is it that he has already given up on trying to find happiness? There are other possible lifelines, and here comes Charly, a long time friend, who was at one time, romantically involved with George. It is also obvious that Charly never really got to know who George was, and at a critical moment, she seems to unaware of how desperate the situation might be. The scenes between George and Charly are incredibly sad, mostly because of her inability to read what is happening to her best friend. Yet the scenes pale in comparison to the everyday scenes where George's reveal that he wants to somehow overcome the pain and desperation he is going through. He looks at the eyes of strangers, yearning to see if he can capture some of the energy he now lacks. Ironically some of them find him attractive and want to connect, but it just might be too late for George.

The film is lovingly photographed, with Ford's masterful hand taking us through the potentially last moments of George's existence. Some people might argue that it is just too beautiful a picture to deliver its devastating message. Yet, why is it that metaphorically speaking, isn't it worse when people are unaware of the beauty surrounding them that makes the situation more pathetic? Firth can see the beauty, but he can longer enjoy it. His world might not be perfect, but he lives in an amazing place, has a great job, good friends, and yet his broken heart can't take it anymore.

The film will rank as one of the greatest romantic tragedies of all time, peppered with flashbacks of George's happier times, and showing the contrast of wasted possibilities, nothing will prepare the audience for the shocking ending, and it might lead to a never ending debate of whether the ending fits the rest of the film. I believe "A Single Man" is an amazing accomplishment, led by the best male performance of the year, one full of complexity and going beyond gimmicks, much like Vivien Leigh gave us a full character, with its contradictions and an incredible range, here comes Firth, showing how an another can give us a lifetime of experience in 90 minutes, with a smirk, or a sorrowful look that speaks more than a thousand words. He recalls Heath's great performance in "Brokeback Mountain", another character whose tortured plight touched us.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Everyone should find "A Single Man"

Author: scoobysnax7654321 from United States
14 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I couldn't fit my whole review here, so please go to Lost In to find it and read more. Thank you.

Would you ever suspect that you would love a film by a fashion designer turned first time director? I didn't quite know what to expect from Tom Ford as he told his version of the book, A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. I knew from the trailer that everyone was going to look their very best, but not much more until I sat down to watch it.

A Single Man is the story of George, an English professor in 1962 that has recently lost his partner of 16 years to a car accident. With the disapproving family not allowing him to attend the funeral, George is left to fester in his own pain for 8 months. When he wakes up from yet another painful night of memories, he decides to end his life and we spend the rest of the film watching George live his last day with moments of clarity.

We see George in almost every scene in the film and get little bits from other great actors here and there like Julianne Moore, who plays Charley, his neighbor and best friend, who he has been very close to for years. We spend the most time with her and she does not disappoint. Charley has come over to California from London as well as George and so they have a past. She spends her days passing the time with a bottle of gin or applying makeup, but when she has George over, she is also very attentive and a true friend while still getting drunk. Matthew Goode plays Jim, the deceased partner and lover, and we get to know him from George's flashbacks. He seems to be just perfect with George. They seem to literally complete each other. Every flashback of Jim will put a smile on your face.

Ginnifer Goodwin plays a nice neighbor and Lee Pace stops in as a co- worker at school. Both parts are very brief and I would have loved more of each. They are both great actors and even in the few scenes we see them in, we could see a history with George. I love Ginnifer in Big Love and she seemed just as warm to George in this film. Just with a kind hello or a smile in her eyes, you could see that they knew each other more than we get to see. I imagined that when her husband went to work, she would have him over for tea or something completely innocent like that. Lee Pace was in one of my favorite movies, The Fall and I was actually taken back by the utter lack of use of his character. He completely fit the look of the other characters as well and already has a sixties look. Kenny comes along, played by Nicholas Hoult, who you may remember from About a Boy with Hugh Grant. He is almost all grown up now and not afraid to approach his professor and ask him some very personal questions.

As George tries to get through the day so that he can get home and get things in order, many things get in the way, life. He begins to talk with his student Kenny in a way that might be more romantic rather than a professional relationship, and he spends a few hours with Charley over dinner and drinks reminiscing their lives apart. Much of this film is spent making the viewer feel like a fly on the wall in George's life. At points in the story, there is dead silence, only the sounds of a real life and we are immersed in his world. Other times in flashbacks, the pain is so much, that the noise is deafening. Ford shows us this by muting the most upsetting parts of his life and leaving us just the images to be burned into our minds.

This is not your every day, mainstream kind of film. This is a film directed to a certain audience and open minded story lovers. Ford chose to shoot this very artistically and seems to blend black and white scenes seamlessly with color scenes and then completely drain the color in front of your eyes. This is a film that will immerse your soul and use all of your senses to encompass the nature of the story. The symbolism is very faint at times, yet so prominent. A gay man in the sixties is an invisible man, yet he chooses to live in a glass house. The world outside of the memories he holds with Jim are very sterile and bland. Every scene is very gray and dull and seems lifeless. Until these moments of clarity come in and almost instantly, there will be a burst of color that everyone will appreciate.

At times, the cinematography was so great, I thought I might be witnessing a perfume commercial in Italy, in the way that Chanel No. 5 would entice you to purchase their product to become beautiful and stunning, Ford entices you to become visually intrigued with the characters. The colors and close ups of the opening scenes are where this is felt the most. There is a dream sequence that I am speaking of, specifically, that seems like it puts you in a daze. Sometimes, the shots were so tight on a conversation, I felt uncomfortable. I wished for a break from the reality and wanted to pull back, but in the end, I'm glad Ford kept my eyes glued to the scenes. In this way, it truly feels like seeing through the eyes of another. The way he looks at someone else may not be how you would see them, but it's refreshing to have a risky director give it all to show that to us.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

like a Poem !!!

Author: bochritas from United States
27 December 2009

I knew nothing about Tom Ford and of course about the movie before I saw "A Single Man". It just happened that I was on my own and wanted to see a movie. As I was alone I made a decision to see this movie. Just like that. And I have to say - Thank You Tom Ford. It made my day, my week, my month !!!! This movie like a poem, like a cool breeze after a hot and humid day. I came out of the movie theater full of senses of satisfaction and joy. It just felt right, good, light and joyful in the same time. Visually and mentally this movie left me speechless. The scene where George is lecturing about "different kind" of minorities was just more than perfect. I love movies which "compels" us viewers to get "something" - the main point of a movie and more by ourselves. And this movie one of them. So much to think about, so much to enjoy by watching and so much to discuss after it.

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11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

A film about attachment and sadness of loss.

Author: Felix Yaroshevsky from Canada
17 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a very chaste presentation of the essence of attachment. The gender of the leading characters matters, but it is not the main issue. Sixteen years of love, intimacy, and fusion of two soul mates. It is believed by some that when one swan dies the other flies very high and plunges to its death. If it's true that the pair of swans can't outlive one another, then this story is about that.

As far as the "gay theme", this film has made it possible to de-sexualize the theme and to further the insight which was presented in "Milk" to a higher plane.

Firth plays impeccably. Only the scene with the sleeping bag was slightly and unfittingly comical and somewhat distracting.

The main emotional experience for me was a profound sadness. The nostalgia for a perfect match of the mother and the child must be familiar to all of us. Exactly this instinct made the people and the dogs resonate with George's death-bound drive. The more fortunate of us encounter another person, whom we feel such a bliss of joining with; and the potential tragedy of loss.

I'd be very surprised if Colin Firth doesn't win for "Best Actor" in all the awards there are for 2009.

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12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

An overdose of sartorial elegance

Author: loverboy_sg from Singapore
21 April 2010

Given that I have been watching a movie at the rate of one a week perhaps my expectations of this movie were too high. I left the cinema somewhat bemused and feeling that my expectations were not entirely met. I expected substance only to be confronted with mostly form. The latter was interesting and would appeal to many people but when stretched out over the entire length of the movie it tended to be a bit wearing.

Everything appeared prim and proper. The audience is given to believe that a university professor in the America of the 1960s is so well remunerated that he has the finest furnishings, the finest wardrobe (where sartorial elegance is constantly on display), and all the other good things that life can offer. This is what happens when there is too much of a stress on form and beauty -- it moves into the realm of make believe. Depending on one's point of view this either helps to shore-up a rather thin storyline or it makes its thinness even more apparent.

And where was the punchline? Perhaps it came in the abruptness of the ending.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Moving, Intense and Captivating.

Author: isabelle1955
16 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

1962 wasn't a good time to be gay. When George Falconers's lover of sixteen years, Jim, is killed in an auto wreck, poor George isn't even invited to the funeral - even though they had been together longer than most married heterosexual couples can manage. He is definitely persona not grata around the parents and other family members, and he's told of the tragedy as an after thought. The Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name. Can't recall who wrote that, but it was certainly true of homosexuality in 1962, even in liberal LA. (This movie is set at about the same time as Brokeback Mountain by the way.) As polite society put it, George was a confirmed bachelor. As a neighbour less politely put it, George was light in his loafers.

Even George's neighbour, long time friend and one time lover Charlotte, can't quite believe that what George and Jim shared was real love, Wasn't it, she inquires, really just a substitute for the real thing? No replies George angrily, probably the only time we really see his teflon demeanour crack.

A Single Man is a superb movie. Moving, beautifully crafted, well written and fabulously well acted. The only reason I haven't given it ten is because the ending is perhaps just a little too 'pat'. Fashion designer Tom Ford can feel justifiably proud of his debut as a film director. The movie is based on a Christopher Isherwood story and written for the screen by Ford himself and David Scearce. Every scene is beautifully constructed, perfectly lit and the design is, as one might imagine of someone with Ford's artistic eye, unimpeachable. Every detail of early 1960s life is here, from the interiors to the attitudes.

When the movie opens, Jim has been dead eight months and George cannot come to terms with the loss. Every day it's agony to wake up, every day just has to be gotten through. George, a college lecturer and an ex-pat Brit, has lost his soul mate, his life, his love, but cannot even express that loss openly at a time when homosexuals were still persecuted. He is invisible and his grief doesn't exist to the world, except for Charlotte (Charley), neighbour and fellow Brit, who sympathises and yet still yearns for George in a naive way, a feeling still lodged in the recesses of her under-used brain that all would be right with the world if they could only get together. Julianne Moore is perfect as Charley, a heavy drinking and smoking, rich, divorced fashionista with no proper job and way too much time on her hands, as clever women so often had, in those pre-feminist days.

The story follows George through the day he has chosen to end it all. Suicide will end his pain. He methodically puts his affairs in order, leaving everything neat and tidy, right down to the clothes for his funeral, the insurance policies neatly laid out on his table, last compliments paid to his staff and co-workers. He buys bullets for his old gun, and, in a scene infused with black humour, tries to decide how best to shoot himself so as to leave the least mess for his house cleaner. But he can't quite get it right, so goes off to the liquor store to buy a bottle of whiskey and while he is there, meets one of his students, Kenny, himself struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. A series of people reach out to George in small acts of kindness throughout his day, and the movie turns on whether or not these small acts will be enough to convince George to go on with life, or whether he will still pull the trigger.

It may sound like a rather gloomy subject, but A Single Man is life affirming, and moving, and an excellent study in bereavement. Colin Firth gives the performance of a lifetime, beautifully contained and you have to feel he may have finally have shaken off the ghost of Mr Darcy and his Thinking Girl's Crumpet tag forever. He is a much better actor than he is usually given credit for and should be a bigger star than he currently is. I would not be surprised to see both Firth and Moore nominated on the strength of these performances.

This is obviously subject matter close to the heart of Tom Ford. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with next time.

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11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Colin Firth carries this very slight film

Author: athenamuses from United States
11 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although this film is beautifully shot, there is not much beneath the surface aside from Colin Firth's honest, no frills performance. This wonderful actor somehow manages to get through a line like, "We're born alone and we die alone," and make it sound interesting. Supposedly the story takes place during the Cuban Missile Crisis, to which nobody seems to be paying any attention. I was a young child then, and the entire country believed that we were on the brink of World War III. Nobody left their television or radio. People were out on the streets talking, crying, praying. Did Tom Ford even bother to crack a history book and do even 10 minutes worth of research? Everything in this film is background for the main character's mood. It's one of the most solipsistic films I've ever seen. It's a serious subject about a character named George, a gay man living in 1960s Los Angeles, whose lover dies tragically in a car accident. George is not allowed to go to the funeral because he is not a member of the family, and one wonders if his sense of loss would be less acute had he been allowed to mourn in public. But that theme is never explored. Instead what we get is a series of aborted pickups with gay models (at least that's how they appear), a ridiculous classroom lecture from George on the "all we have to fear is fear itself" theme, which I believe has been examined by far more interesting and deeper philosophers, and a frustrating evening with George and his best friend (Julianne Moore). She too, knows how to give gravitas to ridiculous dialogue. A disappointing movie, frosted over with "meaningful" silence, and aesthetic window dressing.

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