Just over a week ago Josh K and I had a chance to see a screening of clothing-designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford's new (and first) film A Single Man.
What did we think? Well, it's complicated.
The movie, based on a Christopher Isherwood novel of the same name, is set in 1962. (Isherwood's novel is on my list of books to read since seeing the movie.) The film follows college professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) through a single day of his life.
George, we learn early on, has recently received the news that his partner of 16 years, Jim, died in a car accident. There to comfort and tweak George, as friends are wont to do, is his best friend, Charley (Julianne Moore). In the meantime, one of George's college students, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), seems to have taken a special interest in George. All of this is happening to George, of course, on a day in which he's not sure life is worth living anymore.
Josh and I both agreed that Tom's attention to detail, especially in regard to the clothes and surroundings appropriate for 1962, was meticulous. It's all perfectly rendered. It makes sense considering Tom's background as a fashion art director over the last few decades. (And you'll certainly note no lack of loving closeups on the clothes. I'll also confess that I wanted pretty much every outfit worn on screen.)
Josh K found Ford's fastidious and unwavering attention to detail a frequent distraction, while it didn't bother me quite as much. Josh and I are both huge fans of Mad Men, so we're familiar with great 60s Americana detail work, but in this case Josh K felt like all the detail in Single Man became a bit fussy and bothersome.
There were things that did take me out of the story of film, though, too--one scene with an extremely hot hustler (who must moonlight as a supermodel) took us both right out of the story for a few minutes. It was simply a case of too much being too much. But once the scene ended, I was back into the story; Josh K wasn't as easily won over, however, after that point.
The performances from Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, we both agreed, were fantastic. As many in the press are saying, this may well be Colin's best performance to date, in a career with quite a few plum roles. New York and Entertainment Weekly, among others, have even been whispering about Oscar possibilities. (Indeed, Colin already won Best Actor for the role at the Venice Film Festival. And the press overall for A Single Man, it should be noted, has been quite good.)
In the end, Josh and I diverged quite a bit in how we felt about A Single Man. Josh K felt that it was perhaps a very expensive art school film; I thought that, though there were a few distractions and bumps along the way, overall it was a worthwhile, sometimes moving portrayal of love and loss.
Josh and I agreed that we'd suggest friends see A Single Man--some of the visuals really are quite stunning, and Colin and Julianne are first-rate--and we're very curious to see what friends think of it, too.
Have you seen the film? If so, please feel free to jump into the fray and tell us why you dug it, or didn't. We'd be curious to hear your perspective.
The New York Times weighs in: "While A Single Man has its flaws, many of these fade in view of the performance and the power of Isherwood’s story. Part of the radical importance of Isherwood’s novel is its insistence on the absolute ordinariness of George’s life, including with Jim, whose relationship together is pictured only briefly in both the novel and the film, and yet reverberates deeply (then as now). Mr. Ford’s single man might be less common than Isherwood’s, a bit too exquisitely dressed. But with Mr. Firth, Mr. Ford has created a gay man troubled by ordinary grief and haunted by joy, a man apart and yet like any other. Rated R, the film features a lot of smoking and drinking, the usual adult expletives and one startling urination fantasy." And yes, I especially love the humor of that last line.
COMING SOON Our interviews with the cast and director of A Single Man!