16 January 2010

A Single Man

This is another one of those movies that you enjoy in a guilty pleasure sort of way, while realizing that it's not actually that good. Tom Ford, the director, is a fashion designer, so visually, the movie is pretty fabulous - the 60s have never looked better. At one point, I thought to myself, my god! How glorious to be alive at a time when everyone was so well dressed! Generally, it's well done as a time capsule of that era, particularly in relation to what it was like to be gay at the time, and the general ethos of anxiety, fears of nuclear attack, etc. But it's not just costume that makes the movie pretty - actually, what's most impressive is the use of light and color. Colin Firth's character is extremely depressed, so most of the time, he and his world are a sort of washed out greyscale. But occasionally, when he's talking to someone, he perks up and is gently infused with some color - it's quite clever, and very well done. Really though, one of the most wonderful things about the film is its appreciation for the male body - and how! Wonderful shots of sensual bodies, handled with the loving care that is normally reserved for gorgeous women. Quite nice. And the movie is, at moments, incredibly sexy. This is important, because its story is centered around what is actually a quite depressing subject, and yet the movie never sinks fully into the protagonist's torpor - indeed, even the protagonist himself allows a glimmer of humor to crackle through his wall of ice from time to time. Colin Firth is absolutely tremendous as a miserable man, but he is somewhat outshined by Nicholas Hoult, who is absolutely mesmerizing as an earnest young student. I completely didn't recognize Mr Hoult - though he looked somewhat familiar - until my friend pointed out that he was the star of About a Boy. My god! The years have been good to him!

The main weakness of the film was Julianne Moore - her acting was fine and all, but her character was a bit disappointing, a needy, melodramatic middle aged alcoholic. She's supposed to be Firth's best friend, but it's awfully difficult to understand why they ever became close in the first place, because she's mostly quite irritating. It's too bad - it would have been so easy to give her character a bit more, and at moments the movie almost seems to, but then pulls short.

Also, without giving it away, the ending had me scratching my head a bit. It's a really odd way to end the film, and I'm not entirely sure why it went the way it did. I almost thought it would've been better to end 20 minutes earlier, in a lovely scene on the beach, but then I thought well no, you probably need a bit more - in any case, it was strange.

But ultimately, a very enjoyable film, if a bit melodramatic.

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