Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Single Man

After the first of every year, people are eager for my Top 10 List. I’m not ready, I always say. Because there are those few stragglers left that I have to see. The Oscar-friendly indies that I didn’t have the luxury of viewing at a press screening. A Top 10 List is never complete, but I like to make sure I can see as much as I can.

Case in point: Tom Ford’s A Single Man, which is, to say the least, a Top 10 dealbreaker.

Colin Firth stars as George, a homosexual Brit college professor who is wallowing in his grief after the sudden death of his lover. That’s it. Boom. It only took once sentence to describe what the film is about, but it’d take 10 pages to tell you how good it is.

Where to begin. Let’s start with the film’s style. Tom Ford, famous fashion designer, is known for his intricate steps and tedious details in making clothes. Tom Ford, first-time director, has begun his new career with a film so detailed, so precisely executed, that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Hitchcock and the Coen brothers.

It’s hard looking (and hearing) a film like this, without taking into account its beautiful story. It’s basic style vs. execution. The film’s brilliant use of sound and magical string score (by the Oscar-worthy Abel Korzeniowski) help propel the film’s stirring images. A Single Man is one of those rare films that is actually fun to look at. Watch when George talks with someone that excites him. Their face, from his point of view, slowly gains color. So instead of the film’s grainy, textured look, it slowly shifts to a dazzling, Technicolor delight. Really, very detailed stuff.

Now for Colin Firth. Firth has been around for a while, but honestly, has he ever really been tested? Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary, What a Girl Wants, Easy Virtue… you get the point. These are cookie-cutter roles. But as George, Firth is a sheer revelation. He doesn’t say much, but that matters little due to Firth’s shocking ability to act with emotion. Watch him in the scene when he recalls first hearing of his lover’s death. He’s talking on the phone, not saying a word. The man is acting… with his eyes. I feel like a broken record. A few weeks ago I said no actor could beat Morgan Freeman for the Oscar. Then it was George Clooney. But now I gotta admit, I’m team Firth.

The film is backed by a trio of superb supporting performances, namely Julianne Moore as George’s neighbor and confidant. Moore has three scenes in the film (one of them wordless), and surprise surprise, she steals the show. When is she going to win an Oscar?

A Single Man is easily the best film from a debut filmmaker released in 2009. I don’t know how, if, or where Tom Ford studied filmmaking, but he is a hell of an artist. His film does have a stamp of a first time filmmaker (I’ll admit that his editing of conversations is a bit jumpy) but that stamp is one of approval, not failure. I’m genuinely excited about Ford’s future film career. But even more so, Firth’s new direction as an actor. I’m glad Ford chose Firth in this role instead of a more typical British leading man (Clive Owen and the like). This is the role of Firth’s career in a film that aches passion and tragedy. Forget Top 10, A Single Man just jumped to my Top 5 of 2009. A+

Note: In addition to being a great film, A Single Man has the very best trailer of the year. Check it out.

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