"A Single Man" contains lots of slow motion tracking, fancy use of colour, bold visuals, arresting attention to detail and memorable songs for key moments but it does feel like a series of short set pieces soldered together instead of one whole.
There is no doubt that it looks beautiful, the opening shot of a naked male form floating in water looks remarkably like Damien Hirsts shark in formaldrehyde, or that Colin Firth gives a wonderful performance as George Falconer the recently bereaved college professor who is planning his last day on earth but by the end you are left unmoved by anything you have seen. For a film that is dealing with such an emotionally challenging subject to achieve that is no mean feat.
A lot of what we see on screen bares a close resemblance to the Coen Brothers "A Serious Man"; both central characters are professors, both wear Austin Powers glasses, both believe their lives to be futile, both are set in 1960s America...and, sadly, both were disappointing.
At one point George visits his friend Charley (Julianne Moore) and the entire scene plays out like a cut from an Austin Powers movie. In a serious film like this it is cringe inducing instead of amusing and is one of the most hideous pieces of film I've seen in a long time. Had it been in a Wayans Brothers spoof it would have been derided...only this films "serious" credentials stop that from happening.
The appearance and performance of Nicholas Hoult brings reference to another film, this time "Death in Venice" as the beautiful Hoult brings light into the life of George...literally as he is lit in such a way as to make it seem as though everything and everyone else around him is lifeless. It's a cheap and easy trick and it has the effect of making Hoult look like he is appearing in a Duran Duran video. A lot of attention is paid to Hoult but I can't figure out why, on the evidence of this he is simply "pretty" as opposed to pretty talented.
On Fords own website you can view a video entitled "The World of Tom Ford" which gives the impression that such a world would consist of highly stylised images, moody black and white and a sense of smug self-satisfaction. Worse Tom Ford is described as a "brand" and one cannot help but feel that this film is simply a further extension of brand Ford than a genuine artistic endeavor.
An interesting and warm performance from Colin Firth is the only thing that redeems this film from being utterly vacuous.