A Single Man: Surprisingly simpatico

Everything about the buzz surrounding Tom Ford’s film led one to expect the worst. To overstate the case, one expected a sort of style fascism.

Depending on my mood, I find the assumption of male homosexual superiority – especially in anything to do with looks, behaviour and general all round human understanding – appealing, risible and rather loathsome.

I expected the film to be an homage to queer loveliness, and indeed to represent a sort of gay triumphalism. It did.

The revelation, however, is that beyond the soft gay porn (with its weird debt to Leni Riefenstahl via Armani) this movie was rich in feeling and observation.

I haven’t read original Isherwood novel. Still, I went along to it with a vague feeling that Colin Firth didn’t have the range to get us through this introspective adventure. I knew, of course, that Julianne Moore would hold her end up pretty well, and she did. But Firth was a revelation. He was the sort of hero I think of as Nabokovian. Sensitive, selfish, picky, yearning. Delighted by the innocent sinfulness of America, where depravity is a condition. 

Firth slyly blossomed. His grief wasn’t laboured. His being studious was lightly borne. And above all he was completely convincing as an unhappy man who was cracked open by the niceness and beauty of a new companion.

There was much understated ribaldry amongst the army of middle-aged women who had turned out to the screening. They were tickled to have become fag-hags for the afternoon.

I write this just before the Oscars, and hope Firth wins his class. On his BAFTA form, there ought to be a great little speech from him.

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Publication date

07 March 2010


On movies