Before I talk about this movie, I just want to say that I think there needs to be a film made in which John Noble and Colin Firth play the same man in different stages of his life. Look at the smiles and the hair. See the resemblance. Fitting, no?
Onto the issue at hand, which was a beautiful one. My grandmother, if I may paraphrase her, described it as “a depressing movie about homosexuals,” and upon watching it I found it to be neither depressing nor about homosexuals. I mean, the guy (SPOILER ALERT) dies in the end, and he happens to be gay or whatever, but neither of those things are the point. I’m not even sure if there really is a point, but that’s beside the point. It’s a beautiful character study, a heartbreaking story of lost love, and a coming-of-age tale wrapped into one laconic package. Not to mention there’s a whole lot of eye candy (Jon Kortajarena, Lee Pace, Nicholas Hoult) for the straight ladies and gay men, so how can you really lose?
One of the most noticeable things about the film is its appearance. It was directed by Tom Ford, a fashion designer, and his clean artistic flair is apparent in every shot. The outfits are meticulous, the sets are spotless, and yet it’s neither lavish nor boring. The man is a natural behind the camera, and it’s hard to believe that this was his first film.
It helps that he had such beautiful/talented people to work with. Colin Firth, an actor with whom I’ve never been terribly impressed, really delivered a deep, subtle performance. I got the sense that his character was both conflicted and content, struggling and settled, like most contradictory humans, and he conveyed both sides very gracefully. George, his character, had ADD-like quirks, but he wasn’t an obsessive person. He had just grown accustomed to things a certain way, including having Jim (Matthew Goode, who lost his accent for the film) around and having Charley (Julianne Moore, who gained an accent for the film, and a much better one than the pathetic Boston loll she acquired for 30 Rock) at arm’s length. And when things did not go like he wanted them to go, he decided to kill himself. The suicide scene had to be one of the funniest, most morbid scenes I’ve seen in a long time, culminating in a chicken-out when Charley calls him. George spent all his time laying out papers, outfits, and preparing for his friends to find a body, then spent another several minutes adjusting the pillow that would hold his lifeless head.
I’m not sure what to make of the overall meaning of the film. It was a period piece, to be sure, but the “period” was not thrown in your face, Mad Men-style. Politics were below the surface, rising in subtle jabs through the words of a neighbor kid or a peer at George’s university. Again, I don’t event think that was the point. I think the point was just to enjoy this man’s company for awhile, and find something in him to relate to, and take comfort in the fact that his life had come full circle.