I expected from A Single Man an emotional, slow-paced, character-driven drama. This is a type of film that I often like, or at least seem to like more often and more deeply than my esteemed colleagues. A Single Man is an emotional, slow-paced, character-driven drama. I did not like it. And here is my deeply intellectual analysis of the film:

Boooooooooring.

I’ve been trying to figure out why it didn’t connect with me. A lack of plot doesn’t really bother me and in fact the actual quantity of story here doesn’t cause me concern. Colin Firth’s George is a man in grief over the loss of his lover. But in the early 1960s there wasn’t much community support for gay men (the off-handed and cruel way he hears the news is heart-breaking). He goes into the world a man living a lie, hiding his grief and his sexuality. The day the film covers he has interactions with a female friend and brief former lover (Charlotte, played by Julianne Moore), a student, and a man who propositions him at a liquor store.

But none of these interactions particularly interested me. The parts where George is alone interested me a great deal more, but are a minority of the scenes. So whatever emotional weight George’s night with Charlotte is supposed to provide generally went right past me. His actions while alone are part of a plot point that would be too spoilery to reveal here, but suffice it to say it’s the one story I found very fascinating. I also didn’t like the ending. A few spoilery details after the jump at the end of the post.

Director Tom Ford gives the film an intensely artistic style with artsy (fartsy) shots and lots of playing with the film’s colors. This makes the film quite beautiful but I didn’t feel like the style helped the film narratively or thematically; in fact I think it threw the pace off-kilter.

What’s weird about this film is that it seems to be one some people really love but, unlike most films that evoke strong emotions, it is not polarizing. We all were totally underwhelmed but I’m beginning to think we were the only four people on earth who were. I don’t read a ton of movie sites, but you can count on every movie attracting some sort of comment about how stupid or lame or boring it was. But I haven’t seen anything like that for A Single Man.

People also really love Colin Firth and he’ll get an Oscar nomination. He does a fine job, but his performance left me about as uninterested as the film. I don’t mean to disparage his work, but I don’t think this performance, no matter how great, can really get under your skin if the film doesn’t. Julianne Moore may also sneak in for Supporting Actress and that would be too bad. She does a good job being boozy and a bit crazy. Great. Whatever.

Finally, a few spoilery points to make after the jump. You shouldn’t read ahead if you plan on seeing A Single Man, but you shouldn’t see it anyway so feel free to continue.

The film takes place on the day George plans to commit suicide. Very interesting premise in my eyes. There even comes a point where he is all set to do it but can’t figure out a way to shoot himself comfortably and without making too big a mess. This sequence fascinated me and presents a very strong image that will last in my mind a lot longer than images from bad movies should. I wish the rest of the film – any of it – was as interesting as that. But the talky sequences with the student or the potential pick-up just come nowhere close.

His student follows him home and they have a nice night together, though they do not sleep together. When George wakes up, the student is sleeping on the couch with George’s gun in his hand, presumably to prevent George from killing himself. George apparently decides that his night has been sufficiently interesting, intriguing, and painless to decide to keep on living. At which point he has a heart attack and dies. It ends with a nice image of him reuniting with his dead lover, but yikes, what an unsatisfying, unneccessary, and out of left field ending.

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