Tom Ford, the Vanity Fair helming, Gucci saving, fashion designer, has delivered a fairly assured debut film. A Single Man, which looks just as sharp as Ford’s tailoring, tells a 24 hour story held up by a central and almost career defying performance from none other than Mr Darcy himself, Colin Firth.
Looking like Yves Saint Laurent and often sounding like a mid 70’s era Micheal Caine, Firth’s smart debonair literature professor George Falconer is still quietly grieving the death of Jim (a very confident Mathew Goode), his lover of 16 years and trying to hide from the world in a designer wood and glass house within the normality and vicinity of 1960’s suburbia. The house also comes complete with Aldous Huxley books, a maid and a stark homosexual repression subtext.
The film unfolds slowly and beautifully. Falconer wakes and readies himself for the day, watches (and perhaps secretly in some way, envies) his neighbors and their accepted lifestyle choices from his toilet, no less. We follow him to class while a specter of death in the form of the Cuban Missile crisis hangs over 1962 America, to see an intense turn in a lecture and, after a dangerous flirtation with a young male student (Thunderbird doll Nicholas Hoult) and some under the desk drinking, we begin to suspect that old Georgie boy might be a little further gone that we thought. As we learn that Falconer is seriously entertaining thoughts of suicide A Simple Man sets itself up well as a kind of morose but stylish one last fling.
His best friend and once hopeful lover Charlotte (a super duper poshed up Julianne Moore) seems to be the only real friend left in Georges life, and bar a handful of encounters with some random beautiful people straight of a Levis commercial, the plot darkens but strangely finds it’s feet with some surprisingly funny moments. The lead’s dinner date is particularly good and if Moore’s weird little ya-ya accent doesn’t grate you too much, stands out as the films high point.
Ford fixes his focus firmly on Firth for the film (woah… that’s hard to read back) and delivers a solid work, attractive; but not without its problems. Firth’s scenes with a pretty wooden Hoult occasionally put the film out of step and, though Falconer’s lusting after younger men is handled well, openly and without derision, something which may leave some audiences cold, it also manages to sadly slow it down towards it’s conclusion.
Ford’s over use of heavy handed colour boosts from the film’s purposely drab tones during moments where any hope springs, is basically the on screen equivalent of rising strings to tell an audience how they should be feeling and occasionally borders on patronising, but these are minor beefs with an assured, certainly pretty and rather affecting first effort with both Firth and Moore on great form.