A triumph of art direction over actual direction, fashion designer Tom Ford's debut feature is nothing if not a master class in sartorial excellence, freshly exfoliated skin, and modern Southern California architecture. Based on Christopher Isherwood's 1964 novel, A Single Man encompasses one day in the life of George Falconer (Colin Firth), a British ex-pat professor mourning the death of his longtime lover and companion, Jim. Over the course of George's day, he endures the casual homophobia of his suburban neighbors and the disinterest of his students, drops in for dinner with his gin-swilling divorcée confidante (Julianne Moore), and ends up drowning his sorrows in the company of a fair-haired, flirtatious student (Nicholas Hoult) who seems interested in a little extracurricular activity. Ford has said he was "moved by the honesty and simplicity" of Isherwood's tale. Simplicity, however, is not his strong suit on the big screen any more than it was on the fashion runway. Gussied up with enough stylistic fireworks for several Fourth of July parades, A Single Man, with one significant exception, gives us only a series of immaculate poses substituted for actual meaning and emotion. The exception is Firth, who manages to convey a real human soul stirring beneath George's petrified façade, despite Ford's best efforts to turn him too into another piece of movable scenery.
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