Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Single Man (2009)


8 months after the tragic death of his lover (Matthew Goode), university English professor George (Colin Firth) still struggles to get through each day. Constantly at war between his loneliness, societal view on his lifestyle, and constant desire to look back.

There's a risk one takes when they opt to perform a very stylistic drama. The style can either support or detract from the drama. Tom Ford's first directorial outing, A Single Man, is a perfect example of a movie that does a bit of both.

The strength of the style is so indisputably beautiful, I found myself abruptly thrust into the film's vision. The opening shot moving to the somber Abel Korzeniowski score, riddled with such heartbreak and depth. The reiteration of this stylistic approach multiple times throughout the opening creates a very beautiful introductory segment. Then, almost as if playing with the view, the film begs the question: how many times can someone hear the same musical score to a beautiful slow motion shot before it gets old?

That's perhaps the most telling thing about Ford's striking debut. For all its amazing strength in acting, and visual design, I continuously felt like I was experiencing déjà vu. A feeling of non-movement that really gripped me mentally, and curiously frustrated me. Repeating the same style, while only vaguely moving the plot forward.

Firth's George is the only character who appears to move forward (though it takes him a long time to do so), and only in a melancholy subtext. His conversations with the various people around him stand as testaments to Firth's indisputable talent, but at times I questioned their relevance/purpose. Often giving insight to the uneventful daily routine that surrounds George, but still forcing a bit of dark comedy where it wasn't really needed.

The characters have the presence, and emotional depth, to hold the film goers attention. Heartbreaking, amusing, somber, and at times poetic, each character is a stand alone feature the movie puts on display. During these character moments I found myself so entranced, I was ready to spend hours watching their daily struggles. Alas, a few tears, nude swimming scenes, and an emotional breakthrough later, the movie rushed to its unsurprisingly surreal, dark, and visually impressive ending. If only they had just kept it a bit more simple, the real emotional connection could have blossomed.

Tom Ford's directorial debut is an amazingly beautiful film, riddled with poetic imagery. Yet weighed down by non progressive characters (intentional or not) and a repetitive style that doesn't always connect.

4 better thoughts:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I guess I agree with you, fine but not excellent. Still a good outing though, what did you think of Julianne Moore?

MovieNut14 said...

Personally, it's my favorite movie from 2009. SO beautiful.

Danny King said...

I think you make a great point when Ford's challenge was to not have his visual style detract from the emotional power. And you're right - it ends up being a mix of the two. There are so many shots from the film that will stick with you, and there is also Firth's performance to draw you into his character as well. A very striking debut.

Univarn said...

@Andrew Definitely a good outing. I enjoyed Julianne Moore, but I didn't care much for/about her character. Seemed like there was more there to explore than the film let on.

@MovieNut14 Have you done a favorite of 2009 list yet?

@Danny Yeah, you could certainly do a lot worse for a first outing. I think the writing and acting helped counter his style some. Will be interesting to see his next effort.

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