A Single Viewer

Hello, I've directed a movie.

This is a movie review Tom Ford’s flick A Single Man, with the typing down by Ford and David Scearce from the novel by Christopher Isherwood.

The other afternoon I went, alone, as a single viewer, to a local art house cinema (really, almost the best way to spend an afternoon) to see the Oscar-nominated A Single Man.  And I was singularly disappointed.

Not that the flick didn’t feature a truly brilliant reproduction of the 1960’s and look, well, nothing short of sumptuous, but when it comes to the first movie helmed by apparent fashion icon Tom Ford, you ought to get that at the very least.  Not that the movie didn’t feature an excellent, understated performance by always good Colin Firth, in a tough role as he plays a real person (though it’s a nominated role, after seeing both flicks I think Michael Stuhlbarg deserved that slot), as well as a fine supporting turn by one of my favorite actresses, Julianne Moore.  Not that it wasn’t a perfectly composed, well done flick.

It was that nothing happens!  Dear God, I love the plays of Anton Chekov, and in this film nothing happens.  Spoiler alert:  Yes, there is the loss of a lover right off the bat, and the specter of suicide as well, of course, but movies are roller-coasters of emotions, right?  That’s where we get the adage, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.”  Well, this flick is an elegant tone poem in one color.  Compare it to another stately, mannered period piece flick with Julianne Moore, Todd Haynes-working-in-the-Douglas-Sirk genre (yes, we’ve entered Movie Geekdom!) Far From Heaven:  That’s a movie that takes you on the ride, as you feel for the anguish of Dennis Quaid’s Frank and the forbidden romance between Moore’s Cathy and Dennis Haysbert’s Raymond (yes, yes, I had to IMDB those names.  I’m good, but I’m not that good.).  With A Single Man, we’re terribly sorry that George’s lover has died in a car crash right away and that Jon Hamm tells him he can’t go to the funeral, but that’s it.

Memo to Mr. Tom Ford and all concerned parties:  Not everything needs to be something else!  In it’s right-on review the (always infallible, never to be questioned, I’m only half facetious) Times writes, “Mr. Ford … introduces a gun largely because the novel has so little obvious dramatic tension.”  Well, hey, that’s a clue that this novel isn’t going to translate well to a dramatic medium!  Of course audiences always say, ‘The book was better,’ but no, not really:  Sometimes movies are better than their books (I’m thinking of Jonathan Demme and Ted Tally transforming Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs, Spielberg, David Koepp and Michael Crichton tackling Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Eric Roth and Robert Zemeckis turning Winston Groom’s unwieldy novel into the modern classic Forrest Gump).  Sometimes, of course, the original novel is way better than the movie: The Hours, any of the Harry Potter films not helmed by Alfonso Cuaron, and a thousand other novels that Hollywood has botched.  But the real point is, sometimes a novel should simply stay a novel.  Not everything needs to be something else.

Hello, we've all made better movies.


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