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A Single Man DVD Review

A Single Man (2009) movie poster A Single Man

Theatrical Release: December 11, 2009 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Tom Ford / Writers: Christopher Isherwood (novel); Tom Ford, David Scearce (screenplay)

Cast: Colin Firth (George Carlyle Falconer), Julianne Moore (Charlotte "Charley"), Matthew Goode (Jim), Nicholas Hoult (Kenny Potter), Jon Kortajarena (Carlos), Paulette Lamori (Alva), Ryan Simpkins (Jennifer Strunk), Ginnifer Goodwin (Mrs. Strunk), Teddy Sears (Mr. Strunk), Paul Butler (Christopher Strunk), Aaron Sanders (Tom Strunk), Keri Lynn Pratt (Blonde Secretary), Lee Pace (Grant), Elisabeth Harnois (Young Woman), Erin Daniels (Bank Teller), Jon Hamm (voice of Hank Ackerley - uncredited)

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In A Single Man, Colin Firth plays George Falconer, an English professor of literature at a Los Angeles college in 1962. Gay, middle-aged George is distraught over the recent death of his longtime partner Jim (Matthew Goode) and contemplating suicide. He has the gun and the bullets and he's cleared out his safe deposit box at the bank, but before he can commit the act he has his past and present to mull over in his mind.

From the past, there are the generally happy memories with Jim. They came to a bitter, abrupt end when a car accident took Jim's life and his family didn't want George around for the grieving process or even informed of the news. In the present,
George has a dear confidant in fellow Brit Charlotte (Julianne Moore), a friend from childhood who thinks George being straight for her would fill the voids in her empty, divorced life. There is also Kenny (About a Boy's Nicholas Hoult), an angora-sweatered student in George's class whose newfound concern for his professor seems more than platonic.

While putting off the suicide until he can get it just right, George replays key experiences in his life and spends time separately with Charlotte, Kenny, and a young Spaniard he meets (Jon Kortajarena). To detail the plot anymore would be to overstate the one-day story. A Single Man is far more interested in characters and emotions than in getting us from one point to another (though it also does that). This approach isn't lacking in any way; it is all too easy to feel transported to the sunny California of the early 1960s and empathize with the depressed protagonist.

George Falconer (Colin Firth) lets his mind wander during the dull English class he intends to make his last. Fellow British expatriate Charley (Julianne Moore) gets plenty fixed up for a night of smoking pink cigarettes with the man she loves unrequitedly.

A Single Man is seemingly faithfully adapted from a novel of the same name, written in 1964 by Christopher Isherwood, himself a gay Englishman who taught literature at an LA college in the late '50s and early '60s.

This marks the filmmaking debut of Tom Ford, a fashion designer who helped restore Gucci to glory in the 1990s and more recently launched his own brand. Arriving four years after Ford announced the creation of production company Fade to Black, Single confirms he is better suited to film than you would have reason to suspect. Credited with directing, producing, and (with fellow first-timer David Scearce) adapting Isherwood's text, Ford brings tasteful sensibilities to the proceedings, whose detailed period recreations are the work of the "Mad Men" team.

Onscreen for the film's entirety, Firth makes an indelible impression with his nuanced performance of quiet pain.
This could have easily been read as handsome movie star trying to broaden his range and boost his credibility by playing nerdy and gay, but such thoughts never enter one's mind in response to the rich characterization.

This isn't Milk, a film that seemed largely designed to expose people to depictions of gay people and romances by biographying a modern-day martyr. There is no big social message or political goal to A Single Man and that makes it far more affecting and sincere. Though homosexuality is uncommon enough for it to be one of the first topics you'd use to describe the film (unless you're the studio cautiously marketing it), and it indeed lends historical weight and complexity, it is not the foremost of subjects here. To embrace or dismiss on account of that angle is narrow-mindedness that the film is too sharp to deserve.

In flashbacks (not all of which are black & white), Matthew Goode plays Jim, the recently deceased longtime lover still being mourned by George. Kenny Potter (Nicholas Hoult) seems aware of his professor's suffering and also gayly interested in him.

One of The Weinstein Company's major 2009 Oscar contenders, A Single Man got the third-most awards attention for the studio, short of Inglourious Basterds' wide-reaching notice and the drubbed Nine's glitzy technical accolades. Firth was by far the most singled out aspect of the film, picking up over a dozen nods including his first Academy Award nomination. Behind him, Moore earned some supporting actress recognition but no wins.

Nearly seven months after its theatrical opening, A Single Man becomes one of 2009's last films to come to home video. It does so on Tuesday from Sony, who is distributing Weinstein titles on disc for the time being.

Buy A Single Man on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: July 6, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $27.96
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.95 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

A Single Man is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1. Tom Ford's most memorable choice visually is to reflect George's emotions in colors. That means much of the film is cold and drained. When George's spirits rise, though, colors subtly brighten the scene, bearing vitality. Considering the director's previous calling, it is perhaps no surprise to see how much attention is paid to compositions and appearances. The nice visuals are filtered through a persistent grain, no doubt deliberately maintained here. Delivering everything from opera to Booker T & the MG's, the soundtrack strikes a nice broad presence with expectedly little directionality and crescendo.

Gucci-saving fashionista Tom Ford opens up about his debut film writing, directing, and producing experiences in the DVD's audio commentary and this making-of featurette. The DVD main menu forms a momentary triptych out of its lively montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

There are just two extras offered on A Single Man's DVD. First is an audio commentary by director/producer/co-writer/financer Tom Ford.
Ford doesn't speak incessantly, but he says plenty and does display the enthusiasm a mid-life directorial debut calls for. He strikes a nice balance, sharing insights on dramatic meaning, recalling some facts about the production, and revealing the bits of his life that went into the film. It's a worthwhile listen.

Next and last is "The Making of A Single Man" (16:05), which gathers wide black & white interviews from Ford and his four leading actors. In between film clips and a tiny bit of set footage, they individually weigh in on the story, the characters, and Ford's debut in a thoughtful, non-promotional way.

The DVD loads with promos for event of the summer "The Pillars of the Earth", Blu-ray and BD-Live, Nine, Chloe, and Nowhere Man. The Previews menu holds three of those plus looks at The Runaways, Broken Embraces, "Damages": The Complete Second Season, and "Breaking Bad."

The sadly-scored main menu alternates its montage between a wide image and two more narrow ones, creating an interesting triptych effect.

The typically dulled color palette creeps back to life, as George (Colin Firth) is charmed by Spanish hustler Carlos (Jon Kortajarena) while Janet Leigh looks on from a "Psycho" billboard.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Two of the ten films nominated for this year's Best Picture Oscar were set in worlds of 1960s academia. Had there been a third, it surely would have been A Single Man, which I would rank better than An Education and less coy but not as memorable as A Serious Man. This creative, evocative drama is an impressive first effort from director Tom Ford and a fine showcase of Colin Firth's subtle acting talents. Satisfactorily serviceable, Sony's DVD is worth checking out on the basis of the film.

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Related Reviews:
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2009 Oscar Nominees: A Serious Man An Education Invictus Nine Sherlock Holmes Up District 9
Revolutionary Road Doubt The Road The Hoax The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Youth in Revolt Happy-Go-Lucky Life on Mars: The Complete Series Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season
Colin Firth: Then She Found Me | Julianne Moore: Chloe Blindness Next | Matthew Goode: Brideshead Revisited The Lookout

The Supporting Cast of A Single Man:
Ginnifer Goodwin: He's Just Not That Into You | Teddy Sears: Raising the Bar: The Complete First Season | Jon Hamm: 30 Rock: Season 3
Lee Pace: Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season | Elisabeth Harnois: One Magic Christmas

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Reviewed July 4, 2010.



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