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A BAFTA winning performance…

Posted on 26th February 2010. 3 Comments

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Emma Grimwood is pleasantly surprised by  A Single Man, showing currently at the Gala cinema

“I am most definitely a Firth fan, but he tends to play, well, the same role – a stilted and polite English chap.”

 I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of ‘A Single Man’. My desire to see it was based wholly on the rather cracking trailer, a few mixed reviews, and the somewhat surprising news that Colin Firth had been nominated for an Oscar for his performance. Colin Firth? Nominated for an Oscar? Mr. Darcy winning a prestigious acting award? Don’t get me wrong, I am most definitely a Firth fan, but he tends to play, well, the same role – a stilted and polite English chap. Unlike poor Hugh Grant, who I fear is rather stuck in a rut, Colin Firth has at least begun to play grown-up father-figure roles, but nothing Oscar worthy… This film changes everything, and Firth absolutely dazzles in his poignant and heartbreaking portrayal of a grief-stricken gay man in 1960s America. Set a little while after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film follows the day of British expatriate George Falconer.   The interest the audience has in this particular day (we feel that he has been following this routine – wake up, work, come home – for months) is that George has decided to kill himself.

The present day plotline is painfully linear – shots of different clocks marking the passing of time – but is permeated with the past as vivid flashbacks show us a little of George and Jim’s relationship. Firth recently received a BAFTA for his performance, and it’s not difficult to see why;  during the moment he finds out about  the death of his long-time partner I doubt there was a dry eye in the cinema.

It is very rare that an actor laughs in a film and you get the feeling that she is really, truly laughing – and the result is infectious 

The supporting role of Charley, Falconer’s fellow expatriate friend is deliciously played by Julianne Moore, who, I have to say, is looking amazing for her age. Overdramatic, semi-alcoholic, warm and hilarious, Moore’s portrayal should have got her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but nevertheless she has been nominated for several other awards. It is very rare that an actor laughs in a film and you get the feeling that she is really, truly laughing – and the result is infectious, almost embarrassing. There is a very sweet scene in which Firth and Moore’s characters are getting drunk together and dancing ‘the twist’ – I found it sort of cringe-worthy to watch as it was reminiscent of one’s parents dancing, but it looked like they were actually having fun. It is these joyful moments in the film that pass on its message: it’s the little things in life that matter.

The film is visually stunning but I’d expect nothing less from its major fashion designer director Tom Ford. Sure, the majority of the film looks like a Vogue photo shoot – or, as one critic succinctly put it, a “100-minute commercial for men’s cologne”, but I didn’t have a problem with it. It’s all gloriously beautiful, from the slow-motion shots of Falconer’s neighbour’s young daughter dancing as he drives to work, to the admittedly unrealistically pretty boys who all seem attracted to him. Nicholas Hoult, who plays a student in Falconer’s class, despite his initially dodgy American accent, was surprisingly good. Also, who knew that little Marcus from ‘About A Boy’ would turn out so chiselled and attractive (I feel slightly wrong saying that). Ford’s dramatic use of colour ensure that while Firth is very monochrome, with his stark black-rimmed glasses and polished shoes, Hoult is a golden-skinned preppy god with disarmingly blue eyes and white teeth – and, yes, what seems to be a cream mohair jumper. 

“It’s sort of like looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses…”

 It could be said that Ford takes the visual perfection thing a step too far. People frequently say to Falconer: “You look terrible,” when in reality, he really doesn’t. Firth looks fantastic. He is tanned, healthy and smart, and, as we can tell from a skinny-dipping scene later, in very good shape. It seems that Ford couldn’t bear to have his beautiful film showing beautiful things marred by a genuinely haggard-looking actor. It’s sort of like looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses, which certainly doesn’t do the audience any harm.

One must remember, nevertheless, that this film really is terribly sad. Ford makes it more of a universal theme than the plight of a gay man’s literally unspeakable loss; it becomes about loss in general. At the end of the film there is a moment of clarity for Falconer; and one for us, too: Colin Firth has finally destroyed Mr. Darcy. Hopefully it will be this he will be remembered for, and rightly so. Hugh Grant must be furious.

Emma Grimwood


  • Ganders said:

    Great article Grimmers!

  • Cool Kid said:

    Poor Hugh! Brill article. Well done.

  • Jess said:

    Totally agree, didn’t know what to expect but loved it and Moore should have been nominated for an Oscar, she was brilliant.