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A Single Man
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Reviews & Ratings for
A Single Man More at IMDbPro »

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

We Have Plenty to Fear With this Film-A Single Man **

4/10
Author: edwagreen from United States
25 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Brooding tale of a professor from England teaching in Los Angeles who is mourning the death of his partner in a car accident.

Everyone is telling Colin Firth that he doesn't look well and that he should watch himself. The film centers on one weekend after class. For someone contemplating suicide, Firth alternates via flashbacks with his male lover and meeting a South American hunk at a parking lot.

On Friday afternoon, he lectures his class on Aldous Huxley and fear. I was ready for a Franklin Roosevelt lecture on having nothing to fear but fear itself.

In her brief appearance on screen, Julianne Moore is effective as a lady friend of Firth's. With an authentic British accent, she laments the fact that her husband has left her.

The problem with brooding films is that they lack depth and to be perfectly honest, they become quite boring.

How many college professors have a student over for drinks and a swim? For sure, for Firth and this film, this was certainly a weekend of reawakening and yet in the end, it was a lost weekend.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Not in my top ten

5/10
Author: pegd-1 from Connecticut
21 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Possible spoiler. A grieving man, college professor, homosexual, has lost his long time lover/partner. His every day life since that fateful event is colored gray. Difficult film to critique...All in all, an uneven first(?)time direction by Tom Ford. My first thought was to fast forward, finally I just turned it off and waited until the next day to watch the last 45 minutes. My scoring is probably generous. I keep having to remind myself that this was the 60's era, long before the the gay revolution. I never understood the young student character, but the Spaniard character was a great cameo role. Hated, absolutely hated the ending... Why not cut while George is sitting on the edge of the bed with the George talking over the shot, brilliant. Enjoyed Firth in the classroom expounding about fear. I appreciate Firth as an actor more and more. He alone carries this poignant and flawed film from beginning to end.

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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:

A poor man's 'American Beauty'

5/10
Author: SusanHampson from United Kingdom
21 February 2010

This film is a meditation on melancholia - a painfully slow meditation at that. And like meditation, you may just want to get up and do something else after a while. Trapped in the silent stillness of grief, we watch as Colin Firth's character, Prof. George Falconer tries to remember how to breathe after the sudden loss of his long-term love. The hopeless desperation of his character is beyond miserable. A handsome cardboard cutout in a suit, he tries to assemble his sanity as the jaws of grief bite down.

Every single scene features George and therefore the film never moves away from the heavy grip on the emotions - turning mine into a kind of filmic flatline. I felt dead and empty for the duration.

Tiresome in its stylishness, the grainy scenes and ubiquitous monochrome of the decor and costumes become as dull as the subject. Grief is dull if prolonged, and in life as well as in film, it needs to be punctuated by something, anything, else. This film does not give you that much-needed reprieve from the horrid gloom; it never lets your feelings off the hook. At times, I felt as though I needed some breathing apparatus, at others, I was bored.

Julianne Moore is brilliant. A strange mix of vulgar vulnerability; a true paper rose fading into the night clutching her beloved bedfellow: a near-empty gin bottle. You can almost smell her desperation. Colin Firth's performance is average; he's reserved and English. Save for a subtle mincing run along the beach, he is just being... well... Colin Firth. But with a stylish haircut and strange glasses.

To sum up, a poor man's 'American Beauty' for this decade. 'A Single Man' doesn't have half the character of Sam Mendes' masterpiece, however. In that film, the desperation kind of unfolds so it's much easier to stomach. This film is concentrated on one man and one problem. In a nutshell, too miserable to be memorable.

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14 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Unbelievably visually beautiful and utterly empty in every other respect.

3/10
Author: HillstreetBunz from London, England.
27 June 2010

Tom Ford has has delivered a movie that is the epitome of style over substance. Pictures, performances, mood, music, colour, image, all beautifully chosen and cleverly assembled, combined to leave this viewer feeling that he (Tom) should only ever be left in charge of perfume commercials in future. It started well, a scene in which the lead character hears of the death of his lover and partner of many years, and of how he is set to be excluded from the funeral, was intense and deeply moving. But the movie fails to follow up on this early promise, preferring to show us how beautifully the once happy couple lived (only beautiful things around them, and each of them in the perfect position in their perfect home). For me, the truth is that this period piece only shows how much we Homo's owe to the fighting drag queens of the Stonewall riots, and how little to the comfortably off defeatists who despite the wherewithall, hid from society at large and did nothing to help themselves or other Gay people (log cabin Republicans feel free to recognise yourselves). I doubt if the positive reviews of this movie would have been garnered if the subject matter (which I presume was supposed to be the hidden grief of the Gay Colin Firth character, and the injustice of it) hadn't been 'Gay'. For me this 'hands off' mentality (from the critics) allowed Tom to get away with wallowing in shallowness (if that isn't an oxymoron)? Tom Ford was never a designer, rather a really great stylist, and he's no film-maker, rather a great ad-man.

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22 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

Clichéd and empty, but looks pretty

4/10
Author: srstolz from Canada
21 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is like its director's mainstay, fashion: looks great but mainly it recycles what has come before. Mr Ford has got his production and lighting DOWN. The thing could be an ad for some kind of 1950s Disney retro community, or a set piece in one of those GQ spreads where they predict the next retro trend (lounge, anyone?) into which they throw a few insouciant models in amped-up thrift threads. And the polluted sunset skies of L.A. are so juicy I wanted to take a big old bite!

Other than that, and other than solid performances from Firth, Moore etc, this film is a mass of clichés. Man has epiphany after life-changing moment? Check. Early 1960s repressive? Check. Crude connections between conveniently-playing news clips and narrator's interior life? Check. Sexual outlaws drinking too much? Check. Older lonely person has mind-transforming moment with young sexpot? Check. For this kind of thing, American Beauty did a much better (and funnier) job.

This is the sort of film you would show to a high-school class: its issues are crude and simply presented, its actors look great, it's got a few good lines, but ultimately there's not much there to think about.

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11 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

"A Single Man"

5/10
Author: Colin George from United States
6 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"A Single Man" is your prototypical awards hound. It has rich atmosphere, assured performances, and not an ounce of originality. The debut of openly gay director Tom Ford, who previously made his name in fashion design, is a curiously impersonal film, a contented period drama about the loss of a partner, and a long hour and forty minutes. The storytelling is generally reserved and mature, but straightforward to a fault, packing shopworn scenarios and relationship dynamics that, while successful enough on their own merit, fail to elevate the material beyond each inherent cliché.

But one of the biggest reasons "A Single Man" never soars is that it suffers from some confusing and amateurish stylistic choices. Early in the film, for example, George Falconer (Colin Firth) peers out of his bathroom window. Through filter effects and desaturated imagery, we meet a family straight out of a sixties public service announcement. The actors address the camera, as though we might literally be watching some 8mm home movie. Surely these are George's memories. However, the scene, which spans multiple shots and angles, ends with a mother turning starkly to her side. We cut back to George, who ducks to avoid her gaze. Never mind that there's almost no way that she could literally have seen him through a fence, foliage, and into the dim interior of his bathroom, but the visual shorthand indicates we had moved in space and time. The perspectives from which we see of the family are totally incongruent with George's, but we're still led to believe that these two stylistically independent scenes are occurring simultaneously and within mere feet of one another.

And that series of misleading cuts is a minor gripe compared to a mistake made in the overall sequence of scenes. "A Single Man" begins with a dream in which George is beside Jim (Matthew Good), his dead lover, on a frozen river, a car overturned behind them. Jim is dead. The scene is undoubtedly the most visually striking in the film, but its placement completely undercuts the power of a following flashback, during which we witness George receiving the call informing him of Jim's demise. The scene might have been quite potent if we hadn't already been shown the body, but Ford relegates it to superfluous reiteration in showing it to us second. As a result, rather than carrying the emotional weight that it should, the scene feels languid, heavy-handed, and manipulatory.

Worse still is that Ford doesn't seem to understand his own protagonist. A contemplative discussion between George and a colleague is derailed by point-of-view shots of nearby shirtless male tennis players. The director uses close-ups and slow motion to add emphasis to each glowing Adonis, even though it doesn't makes sense for Firth's character. George is intellectual and collected, but harbors a deep sorrow, which is and should always be the root of the film. The loss of Jim weighs heavily on him, so to turn around and have him ogling others in a completely inappropriate context is beyond counter-productive; it's developmental sabotage. Had the same relationship been heterosexual, the close-ups thereby featuring women in sports bras glistening in motion, it would be clear our protagonist is an insincere pervert, which George clearly isn't. Ford employs a dangerous double standard in this imagery.

The bottom line is that "A Single Man" is a mediocre drama riding high on Oscar buzz in at best a middling awards season. The performances by Firth, Good, Nicholas Hoult, and Julianne Moore are opaque, but the content of their exchanges wants badly for substance. Their playbook passion undermines what could have been a deeply resonant human story, which is instead utterly neutered by pretension. There simply isn't one genuinely surprising or transgressive moment in the film, even in scenes that take a lighthearted approach to suicide and prostitution.

"A Single Man" may disguise itself well-enough through impressive art design as an awards- caliber film, but behind the slick veneer and A-list stars, this paint-by-numbers portrait of heartbreak is singularly underwhelming.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Good story line, great acting, but...

7/10
Author: senhor-ron from Portugal
8 February 2013

From the moment the movie started I was truly captivated. The haunting musical score, the beautiful cinematic and the way the viewer gets drawn into the story.

This is one of those movies that actually makes you think about aspects of life, we usually take for granted. Especially those of us who are not homosexual beings. How can we ever understand what it must feel like to be invisible and never be able to live our lives to the max, out in the open because society simply just does not allow it?

Why then, do I only give 7 stars out of 10?

Continuity, for one! There is one continuity error that is so obvious that for a moment I wondered if it was done on purpose. It is not that it breaks the movie, but is sure kicked me out the feel...

Also, I think the characters could have been more developed, but I am also not really decided on that...

Overall, wonderful movie that left me thinking about my own life...

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Only gave it a 7 cause of how extremely upset I was at the end...

7/10
Author: Dallon Thorup
6 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I would have given this movie a solid 9 or even a 10....however the ending left me in tears and so depressed that I couldn't bear to give it a high score...

The story is amazing, such a great journey through this man's life and loss and how to learn to appreciate the small things in life, however once things start to turn around for him in the end... HE HAS A HEART ATTACK AND DIES!!! I love movies that stir up emotions in me, make me feel and make me think, but I have a hard time enjoying movies that make me leave depressed...

All in all this is an amazing story and everyone should see it at least once.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Firth's performance does the vast majority of the work

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
22 April 2012

A Single Man is a film about loss and grief as it pertains to an English professor who has lost his partner of many years and who has decided to draw a line under it all and commit suicide. In terms of traditional plot there is not a huge amount to be said because for the majority of the film we are following him through various interactions while he also flashes back to times with his deceased partner. Some have accused it of being dull and, while I don't totally agree, I can understand where they are coming from because it is a film where a lot of time seems to be spent going almost nowhere in terms of narrative flow.

This seems like a deliberate decision to give this film a very still air to it, reflective and contemplative mostly as befits the subject matter. Unfortunately in terms of the "feel" it is perhaps too much in this direction because it can feel still to the point of being cold at times – like it has no heartbeat anymore; not often perhaps but often enough to bother in a 90 minute or so film. Thankfully there is one factor in the film that is hugely above all others – Colin Firth. He is excellent here and his character is totally convincing with his upright exterior barely concealing the pain he faces daily and he catches this sense of constant melancholy really well throughout the film. The only downside of this is that he is the entire film and I didn't always like the feeling that, were he giving a lesser performance, perhaps there would be very little else to engage me.

Certainly the supporting cast aren't enough. Moore is good but not given enough screen time to make more of her character. Hoult surprised me by how very stiff and poorly drawn he was – I've seen him do well before this film and he is certainly capable of more; I suspect he was directed thus to be part of the stillness of the piece as for sure he makes no ripples here. I haven't read the source material so I cannot say whether Ford did a good job of translating it for the screen, but to me he seems to have left the heart of the film to be entirely handled by Firth as actor – a decision that worked well for Firth, but not for the film. The direction is still and moves within beautifully designed sets and costumes, while the cinematography is good enough to survive the slightly gimmick feel that the visual toning that some scenes have.

Overall, A Single Man turns out not to be that good a film. It is overly still and it moves at an slow pace that does hurt it at times. The massive saving grace is that Firth is tremendous and that in all the stillness his slightest touch is magnified so that he delivers the heart and humanity that seems to be lacking in so many other regards. Worth seeing for his performance even if it does feel like he is delivering despite the rest of the film, not with it.

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