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“Colin Firth Shares his Pain”
Colin Firth gives a devastating portrayal in “A Single Man,” as a day in the life of a gay professor in the 1960s who chooses for it to be his last day.  It’s a landmark performance, heart-tearing without being maudlin. Unfortunately, his writer/director, Tom Ford, has only style on his mind.

 

George (Firth) plans out his suicide.  He wraps up his classes, removes his insurance and finances from his bank, and spends a final evening with his gal pal (Julianne Moore).  He lost the love of his life, Jim (Matthew Goode, “Match Point”), in a recent car accident and refuses to see a future without him. As George methodically maps out his end, several people, including a flirtatious student (Nicholas Hoult, BBC’s “Skins”), start to veer him off course. They may not show him “It’s a Wonderful Life” but it may at least be bearable.

 

Firth quiet sadness is palpable. As he flashes back, he ruminates on the perfect life he never expected to lose. Dulling the senses with hard liquor, he already has one foot in the grave.

Also haunted by the past, Julianne Moore is an equally lonely woman who never loved a man as much as George.  After twenty years, she still imagines that the gay man will decide he loves her. She’s the female version of her George, committing a slower version of suicide through dipsomania. She’s reminiscent of Lisa Kudrow in the outstanding black comedy “The Opposite of Sex.” While Kudrow’s uptight Lucia uses quips to survive her unrequited love of a gay man, Moore’s Charley uses booze (is it coincidental that their nickname for her is a MALE moniker?)

Nicholas Hoult is coquettish as the flirty boy unknowingly sending George a life preserver.  He’s like a jolt of adrenaline when he literally shocks George’s system with a late night date.

Tom Ford, who comes from the world of fashion, creates a striking portrait of the swinging 60s. The clothes, the architecture, the music all set a particular mood. However, his obsession with the human naked form and physical beauty takes the place of real emotion. He does little to explain how a man with so much to offer would give up on life. Had he focused more clearly on the bond between Firth’s George and his lover Jim, the loss would have been more palpable. As it is, all that can be said for Jim is he’s pretty. To find the missing link in “A Single Man,” re-watch the montage sequence of Pixar’s “UP” where the filmmakers illustrate the deep love the protagonist has for HIS wife.  Despite being a cartoon, the sequence has more depth than the relationships found here.  Besides his ties to Jim, George meets a few other intriguing gentlemen, including a hustler. Though George does not attempt to find solace in empty sex, his director can’t seem to make such a connection.

At the center of “A Single Man” is a contemplative, superb performance by Firth.  After years of playing the man of protagonists’ dreams (Darcy in both “Pride and Prejudice” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary”), it’s rewarding to watch this brilliant actor in the spotlight.  His agony burns in that light.  Grade: B

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