FIRST Review of Tom Ford’s ‘A Single Man’

11 September 2009

a single man

Should Tom Ford have stuck to designing his impeccable Gucci suits? Not if “A Single Man’ is anything to go by. The screenplay – which Ford co-wrote, produced and directed – could win more than the Best Dressed award at the Venice Film Festival. That’s already in the bag for sure – from the moment Colin Firth strides onto the screen in Ford’s trademark black, his 50-something professor character George is turned out like an Italian billionaire. We follow a day in the life of George, some months after the death of his gay partner of sixteen years. It’s set in LA but Firth doesn’t do American – instead he’s the perfect stereotype of an English gentleman, silently devastated by his loss.

a single man

Audiences could feel they’re spending an hour and a half in the drama of a Ford catwalk. Each shot is exquisite, with ethereal flashbacks to a colourful past when his lover Jim was alive, interspersed with a grey present. Swelling opera music is straight from an haute couture show soundtrack. There’s no ugliness in Ford’s 1962. Every character is beautiful - especially the men. A succession of hotties try to pick up George – from the pink-angora sweatered student, Kenny (played by Nicholas Hoult), to Lee Pace as a Spaniard with a look which should see him go straight to the nearest launderette and take his jeans off. Speaking of which – this could be the most homoerotic film since My Beautiful Launderette. The camera lingers over the male form as if Ford was trying to sell you men’s cologne. Women will be able to look wistfully at this celebration of male beauty, knowing the director has just answered the question, ‘Is every hot single man in the world gay?”

a single man

Julianne Moore takes a turn as Charley, the only female character. She’s a bored upper class English housewife, addicted to gin and still hoping to turn George. Ford places her in a pink boudoir, with frou-frou slippers, black kohl and a beehive. He’s also agonised over every detail of soft furnishings – from Charley’s pink cushions to the minimalist Scandinavian sofas and lighting in George’s home. It might be some consolation that the hero gets to weep his loss into the finest Egyptian cotton pillowcase.

Ford should be praised for making a film which isn’t just pleasing to the eye – gay or straight, George’s predicament speaks straight to the soul. The only problem is, his surroundings are so perfect you’ll be mourning his sorrow one moment, and coveting his lampshades the next.

Exclusive! Grazia Talks to Julianne Moore and Colin Firth

a single man

How did you end up being cast as Charlie?
Julianne: Tom sent me the script, and I thought Charlie was a really fun party girl, a faded party girl.

The look of the film is amazing – how much of that was Tom’s work?
J: From the clothes to the soft furnishings, Tom was very passionate about how things looked and how things should be. That’s exactly what you want from a director. Sometimes the production sets I turn up to look wrong, but you feel like Tom has considered everything down to the last detail. George’s life was reflected in the modern but conservative furniture in his house, and my room was exactly how I imagined Charlie’s would be. Tom’s a guy who looks at the whole picture.

How is Tom as a director?
Colin: In the hands of different director I think the part would have worked out differently but Tom gave me total freedom to create the character of George. It was a very short shoot, only five weeks long, and we worked lots of really long nights. It ended up with a lot of Tom in thee character of George, and a lot of me in him, I feel like we’re created a great person together.
J: Tom just put his whole heart and soul into making this movie. It’s not just a fashion project.
C: People are fascinated because it’s Tom Ford and people are also skeptical because it’s Tom Ford, but [the film] deserves to be judged on its own merits, not because of who Tom is.

OK, but what it like going to work when you’ve got Tom Ford as your director? Is he always as smart as when we see him ?
J: He always looks great. Tom always wore a black suit and a white shirt, he is never sloppy. He is always handsome and he always looks like perfection.

- Emma Pritchard Jones in Venice


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