Monday, March 15, 2010
A Single Man (2009)
There are great movies, and then there are great performances. “A Single Man” isn’t a particularly great movie, although it is competently done for a Sundance-type movie by a rookie director (fashion designer Tom Ford). The film does, however, feature a great performance by Colin Firth. He plays George, an English professor frozen by grief 8 months after the death of Jim, his lover and life partner of 16 years. George has decided to kill himself, and the movie follows him on what is to be his last day. The universe is not content to let George simply fade away, however. As he goes about tidying up his affairs, giving a last lecture, and having dinner with his best friend (played by Julianne Moore), he keeps having run-ins with people who seem determined to drag him back from the edge of despair. Finally, it is one of George’s students, a thoughtful, and optimistic young man (Nicholas Hoult) named Kenny, who makes George dare to consider being happy again. As Kenny puts it, “You never know what’s going to come next.”
“A Single Man” is exactly what it should be, a small, thoughtful movie that you just know is based on a book by somebody (Christopher Isherwood, in fact). It is, perhaps, a bit too full of scenes where men stare searchingly into each others’ eyes, but otherwise it makes a fine, intellectual-chick-flick. What takes the film beyond that status is Colin Firth’s acting. He is absolutely perfect in this movie. He is temperamentally the obvious choice for George, having played so many other restrained, extremely British types. In scene after scene, Firth speaks volumes with just a subtle change in facial or body position. He adeptly takes us inside the despair of this buttoned-down, closed-off character and makes us feel joy when George’s ice starts to melt.