It's November 30, 1962. Native Brit George Falconer, an English professor at a Los Angeles area college, is finding it difficult to cope with life. Jim, his personal partner of sixteen years, died in a car accident eight months earlier when he was visiting with family. Jim's family were not going to tell George of the death or accident, let alone allow him to attend the funeral. This day, George has decided to get his affairs in order before he will commit suicide that evening. As he routinely and fastidiously prepares for the suicide and post suicide, George reminisces about his life with Jim. But George spends this day with various people, who see a man sadder than usual and who affect his own thoughts about what he is going to do. Those people include Carlos, a Spanish immigrant/aspiring actor/gigolo recently arrived in Los Angeles; Charley, his best friend who he knew from England, she who is a drama queen of a woman who romantically desires her best friend despite his sexual ... Written by
With Tom Ford at the helm, the very least you'd expect from his adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's novel is a parade of gorgeous men in well-cut suits. Certainly there's enough Kennedy-era period detail here to satisfy the most ardent fan of Mad Men (and an uncredited voice cameo from Jon Ham). But the meticulously edited trailer gives no hint of the warmth and humour that underscore this potentially bleak meditation on love and loss.
The action takes place over the course of just one day (and night) -- 30 November 1962 -- in the life of handsome, middle-aged college professor George (Colin Firth). Like his friend, neighbour and one-time lover Charley (Julianne Moore), George is an expat in LA. He has a good job and a well-appointed home in a picture-perfect suburban street, but since the death of his long-term lover Joe (Matthew Goode) a few months earlier, George has been going through the motions. Now today it appears that he is putting his affairs in order, with a view to ending it all.
I must confess that I never swooned over Colin Firth's Mr Darcy back in the 90s and I've found it increasingly hard to relate to the repressed, lovelorn and frankly lumpen Englishmen he often plays. But here he's a revelation. As George's day unfolds, a series of reveries -- erotic, nostalgic, humorous and sad -- reveal the man behind the immaculately suited exterior. Whether perched on the loo wryly observing his neighbours, lavishing praise on a bemused secretary, or enduring a discourse on bomb shelters from a colleague (Lee Pace), Firth shows a welcome lightness of touch. He's tender and tolerant as Moore's gin-sodden hostess berates him for his inability to be the (heterosexual) man she needs. And his obsessive-compulsive fumbling with a gun and a sleeping bag are hilarious.
Moore expertly conveys the fragility and hopelessness of a woman once married and once feted for her looks, who is now staring into the abyss through the bottom of a bottle of Tanqueray's. It reminded me of some of her best work -- in Safe, Boogie Nights and The Hours -- and made me wish she'd stop wasting her talent playing second fiddle to the likes of Nicolas Cage and Samuel L Jackson.
It's a film in which the camera restlessly prowls in search of physical perfection: in the well-tended gardens of George's neighbourhood; the piercing blue eyes of flirtatious student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult); and the chiselled looks of Goode's doomed lover. But the script, co-written by Ford and David Scearce, ensures that this never descends into pastiche or glossy melodrama.
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