A Single Man (Tom Ford, 2009)
Category: Sad film about single men. It’s tough out there for the single men. While the dudes in relationships get to be beholden to their girlfriends’ whims and mood swings, the single men are stuck being free to do literally whatever they want to do at all times. Tough times.
Of course, this is much more a film about a sad gay man. (I guess A Sad Gay Man isn’t as good of a title, though.) The film takes place in the ‘60s, when being openly gay wasn’t really in vogue. The sixties were quite a flamboyant period, though, so one might imagine that the gays could hide in plain sight. Which I bet eased the pain of having to deny who you were as a person to everyone.
My familiarity with this issue: Yo is this movie about me?!!?!?? (Disclaimer: this remark is only referring to the phrase A Single Man, and not the sad gay part AMIRITE LADIES.)
As mentioned, the film is actually about the gays, thus continuing Taste My Sad’s devotion to that group. Blog completists will know that gay films comprise a sizable percentage of the blog’s oeuvre. Indeed, I’m willing to go on record and call the gays the Official Demographic of Taste My Sad. (Sorry, white people. You're a close second.)
While I do often enjoy movies and shows set during the Swinging Sixties, it’s different from actually living during that period. Everyone seemed to be chilling outside while wearing fancy clothes and talking about their feelings. I don’t do any of those things. Throw in the threat of nuclear war and the musical Hair, and I seriously wonder if I’d have preferred to skip the decade altogether, not unlike Brendan Fraser in the film Blast from the Past.
I would be remiss if I didn’t note how highly anticipated this entry is among the gays and FsOTGs. (By which I mean, FsOTB Ben Pollack and Michelle Loizeaux have recently tweeted about it. It’s a low bar for high anticipation here at the blog.) It's a long time coming, as well: I’ve been planning to watch this film with known stringbean and FOTB Ian Frazier for quite some time now. His thoughts on the film are presented below.
Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “On what he plans will be the last day of his life, George Falconer reflects on his past, particularly on the death of his partner of 16 years, Jim, who was killed in a car crash some months before. He's decided to take his own life that evening and meticulously plans the event, hoping out loud that he can just make it through the day.”
What FOTB Ian Frazier thought of the movie: Okay. So. Taking the extreme overall attractiveness of Nicholas Hoult out of the equation, here are the reasons why A Single Man is one of my favorite films. (Editor's Note: we will discuss Hoult further later in the blog. Hayyyyy.) The beauty and brilliance of the cinematography and Tom Ford’s choices in filming are breathtaking. Whether it is the sleekness and perfection of each character’s presentation, or the subtle yet moving ways each scene goes from a dull contrast to vivid color depending on George’s emotions in each situation, the film moves me.
Combine this visual exquisiteness with the score/soundtrack and I’m blown away every time and am left wanting more. The movie and the score mesh to create the perfect movie-watching experience for any romantic. I find myself listening to the score repeatedly and love how it has the ability to produce the same emotions I feel when actually watching the film (so kudos to you Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi). (Editor's Note: Ian burned me the soundtrack to the film and I agree wholeheartedly. I especially enjoyed this version of "Stormy Weather," which I have listened to probably 400 times in the day or so since I've seen the movie.)
Julianne Moore (love her) plays her part well enough, but is nothing in comparison to Colin Firth’s performance and portrayal of George Falconer. This movie sticks because for me it’s more than just a gay film; it’s a story of love and loss and how someone struggles with moving past losing love. The spirit of the story can be summed up with the opening lines, life and “waking up begins with saying am and now,” so be sure not to waste what precious time is given to you.
What I thought of the movie: Wowowow. If I were into ranking the movies I’ve seen for the blog, this would rank at or near the top. Basically everything Ian said I agree with, wholeheartedly.
The reason the movie affected me so much is that it has style and substance in equal measure. I was wary of the fact that it was directed by the fashion designer and movie-directing neophyte Tom Ford. And while the movie is unmistakably fashion-y (populated by a bunch of often-shirtless model types), the choices Ford makes, as Ian notes, totally work. They add to the story, which is compelling enough in its own right.
And then there’s the acting. It’s hard to describe how good Colin Firth is in this movie. The scene where he learns about his lover’s death on the phone is just ludicrously heartbreaking. A huge part of it is shot in one take, no cuts, and everything is just so perfect it defies description. I literally don't know what to say about it except to urge you to watch it. And the rest of the movie totally lives up to that scene.
How I related to the movie: Let me first say that my viewing experience did not match the famous “Motown” scene at my screening of Weekend, but it was still quite fabulous. Do you know how they talk about how many tweets are happening per second, and how it spikes during major events, like the Super Bowl or when bin Laden was killed? When Nicholas Hoult took off his clothes to go skinny-dipping, the number of "lustful comments about Nicholas Hoult" per second went through the roof. It was like the Tower of Babel, except with more groaning.
I really enjoyed all the ‘60s bits. The set design and costumes were obviously really cool and probably spot-on. It’s kind of set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which I know about because I’ve seen Thirteen Days. But there are also great ‘60s euphemisms for homosexuality like “poof” and “light in the loafers.” The kinds of things that you don’t really hear anymore, unless you live on Long Island. Plus young sweet Nicholas Hoult talks about taking mescaline, which is hilarious and made me think of Eli Cash. (Very much so.)
I honestly thought the movie would be a lot more about prejudice, or at least the difficulties of living as a gay man in the 60s. And that’s obviously in there, but it’s not as central to the movie as I expected it would be. This is why, as Ian says, it’s really not a gay film. Again, I must point out that it’s very gay. Oh how gay it is! But it’s not JUST gay. It’s about more than being gay. And like all truly great movies, it transcends its genre.
How I felt after the movie ended: I won’t spoil the ending. I haven’t even really talked about the plot, by the way. The film takes place in the course of one day, and while there are flashbacks, it pulls off the exceedingly difficult trick of being more about a person than what happens to him. It’s about a state of mind. Such movies often run the risk of being boring, but this one was anything but. Well done, Tom Ford and the rest of you sexy gays. You’ve solidified your official demographic status.