I'm reminded of Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia. Both films are told exclusively during one single day in
Colin Firth's Oscar-worthy turn is a portrayal of a gay college professor named George Falconer. It has been eight months since his lover Jim (Matthew Goode) died in a car crash, and it's as if a piece of George has died off every day since. In the opening sequence, Firth delivers a striking voice-over detailing his morning routines. It begins with his dread of waking up. Some of us are morning people. Some of us love the chirping birds, the bright sun, the warm coffee. Not George Falconer. After adjusting his tie pin, he looks into the mirror and says, "Just get through the goddamn day". Firth's delivery of the line is not only perfect, but it is symbolic of what is going on inside of George's head. He can't be a gay man in public. He can't ask for the support of his peers while he is grieving for Jim. There are so many emotions inside of this man that are forced to stay bottled up, and that is why, at the end of this single day in Los Angeles, George Falconer has planned to shoot himself.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Tom Ford is a fashion designer. In 2008, he decided to try his hand at directing. His masterful debut, called A Single Man, is an adaptation of a 1964 Christopher Isherwood novel. It should come as no surprise why Ford -- who also wrote the adapted screenplay along with David Scearce -- chose this story for his debut feature. With the entire film taking place over the course of a single day, this is an artistic vision that relies on texture and mood more than most films do. We don't have months and months to meet George Falconer, but Ford's direction, along with Firth's unbelievable lead performance, makes you feel for this character more than you ever thought you would.
When he manages to make it to school, he doesn't go about it like he usually would. Rather than focus on the Aldous Huxley novel his class is reading, George decides to talk about fear. He disturbs most of the class, but one of his students, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult -- completely transformed since his pleasant turn in About a Boy), seems to understand the lecturer's message. They have a long, heart-to-heart chat about everything from drugs to pencil sharpeners. There's a quiet awkwardness to the conversation, as if it's the first meaningful one that either person has had in a very long time.
George comes home from school and gets ready for dinner with an old friend. He and Charley (Julianne Moore) used to be romantically involved, but as George suggests, "it didn't really work out, did it?". The aura of loneliness present throughout their dinner is tough to deal with. We've been following George around for so long that we can't possibly believe someone can be more lonely than him, but Charley most definitely is. She shows signs of lingering feelings towards George, but he never shows the desire to take them seriously. It's a solid relationship, but one they never seem to have taken the time to truly define.