Review: A Single Man

Tom Ford the Designer Trumps Tom Ford the Filmmaker

Designer Tom Ford has throughout the years fashioned a persona of calculated masculine elegance. Seen in fashion magazines and gossip columns always sporting groomed stubble, tailored suits and tanned skin, he embodies the refined upper class male.

In adapting Christopher Isherwood’s gay novel, A Single Man, for his first foray behind the camera, Ford imprints his refined aesthetic into every frame of his visually arresting film. But while it’s lovely to look at, Isherwood’s story calls for an introspective character study of one man’s all-encompassing despair, not a feature length perfume ad (albeit one with top-tier performances from Colin Firth and an uncharacteristically hilarious Julianne Moore)

Set in a 1960’s Los Angeles where the cars are shiny, the boys pretty, and the stench of unfiltered cigarettes suffuses the air, the film follows dapper English professor George (Firth), who having lost his partner eight years prior, goes about his day with suicide on his mind. That’s an awfully long time to contemplate suicide and never act on it. The film makes no effort to address this point.

Ford the designer is evident in every frame of this picture. George’s glass house seems lifted from the pages of Architectural Digest. His wardrobe makes the suited men of Mad Men seem slack in comparison. But while George’s refined nature calls for such a defining treatment, Ford missteps by extending this calculated aesthetic to each and every character George encounters. The student body at George’s college resembles a throng of models outfitted to the nines. His secretary’s hair seems as if it took her an army to assemble. Even his neighbor (played by Big Love’s Jennifer Goodwin) looks like a Stepford wife.

Ford lavishes so much attention on the set dressing, that he loses sight of protagonist’s inner-life, performing a disservice to a universal story of loss.

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