Review: A Single Man

Sure it’s beautiful but COTTIA THOROWGOOD wishes it was more than just eye candy for the diabetic.

A Single Man Cinema Colin Firth Film Movie

I reckon I could make a film about pink cigarettes, bouffant hairstyles and heartbreak, but I don’t think I would. Nor would I be able to afford Colin Firth to star. Though in all fairness he did execute his role rather beautifully, almost as beautifully as the rose-kissed world that his character George lives in.  This is a film about beauty, one whose acclaim baffled me for its consciously indulgent stylistic focus, this much I got, but who the film was really aimed at or what it truly was bypassed me.  

Set in 1960s Los Angeles, the film’s pink smoggy skies, drink and ahistorical decadence were both convincing and pleasing. But this was it. We didn’t need to be convinced and pleased. Every frame hit you over the head with “Hello. I’m 60s. And very beautiful.”  Great Ford, but what else? At what point was this film most about relationships, dysfunctional American lifestyle or fashion? To follow any one aspect would result in dissatisfaction; the constant preoccupation in the film was too overtly style, sex and men. There was something almost disgusting about the female portrayal; needy, Stepford Wives-esque perfection, superficial and sexual. The men, on the other hand, shone out as the stars of the show; industrious, illustrious and Americana to the extreme. James Dean replica happens to hang out in Liquor store phone box, obviously, but problematic when every boy we meet happens to be signed with Storm, or IMG. I forget. Even Firth, with his British accent and Mr/Mark Darcy connotations fitted this image of suburban LA glamour despite all his suicidal tendencies. What this film was great for was image. A happy, magazine-worthy depiction of ‘A Time Period’. Nothing subtle and everything extreme stood out here, from the airbrushed perfection of the passing students at George’s high school; all eye-lined up or beatnik-ed out, to the wonderful yet repetitive colour transformations from dowdy to illuminated during emotional change. Subtle, Ford, but maybe just the once.

But wait. There was glory to this film. There was some backbone, because my initial reaction, despite the depiction of vacuity given, was of awe for the beauty and detail and fascination that both had gone into and come out of this piece. The story was sad, crushing. The bar on the beach seems so real or at least so moreish that it should be real, and such creation of nostalgia should not be so easily dismissed. The model village – as in full of models, not insubstantially sized houses – is at least exciting for being different. Whilst not subtle, this film avoids assuming a subtlety it doesn’t possess; it unashamedly is what it is, a designed artwork. What it cannot be, and it seems Ford may have desired, is a “classic”, but how can a piece produced away from its time and so ostentatiously and desperately seeking style be classified as such? Go for colour, for easy 60s nostalgia, for post Valentine ’s Day morbidity, but don’t go for meat. This is simply eye candy for the diabetic.