In one of the most thought-provoking performances of 2009, Colin Firth plays a grief-stricken gay professor named George who plans to kill himself after his longtime lover’s death.
In his directorial debut, fashion designer tom Ford presents a beautiful adaptation of the novel by Christopher Isherwood.
Anchored by Firth’s performance (which earned him an academy award nomination), Ford’s first film magnifies the deep depression and joyful moments of George with subdued colors that explode into deep hues during moments of delight.
We meet Firth’s character on what he intends to be the last day of his life, following him as he puts things in perfect order. As in Ford’s cinematic vision, Firth’s character manages every detail. He sets out the clothes he wants to be buried in, cleans out his safety deposit box and sets his papers in lawless order. He even arranges himself in the perfect position to avoid a bloody mess for whoever finds him after he shoots himself.
Julianne Moore plays George’s longtime friend, an aging and lonely beauty named Charley. Firth and Moore’s one scene together reigns as the most telling and dramatic moment of the film. The heartache that George feels at the loss of his longtime lover and his inability to express it in 1960s L.A. comes across in beautifully written dialogue expressed by two very talented actors.
While each scene glows with beauty, several of the plot points of this film fail to register. In several instances, a little girl of George’s neighbor, Mrs. struck (Ginnifer Goodwin), peeks in and out of flashbacks and the present in an apparent attempt to add humor. The addition of the young child (who first appears in a dress and petticoat standing on mirrored tile) adds more oddity and perversion than comic relief when subjected to George’s lingering gaze.
The commentary Ford offers in the special features provides plot details that viewers may not otherwise notice. While much of the plot becomes tangled throughout much of the film, Ford makes up for it with style and camera angles. (Rated R)