Rating: 4 out of 5
As you'd expect from a designer, every frame in this film is visual perfection, capturing settings and characters with artistry that packs a real wallop. And if the overall film feels a little icy, it's also remarkably involving.
In 1962 Los Angeles, George (Firth) is a university professor whose boyfriend (Goode) has died in a car crash. Unable to cope with his grief, or to show it to anyone, he tries to go through his day as usual. His next lecture derails into a message about fear in society, and he decides to put his life in order before committing suicide. But a last evening with his boozy best friend Charlotte (Moore) and the attentions of a Spanish hunk (Kortajarena) and a bright-eyed student (Hoult) test his resolve.
Based on a Christopher Isherwood novel, this film is a tightly wound, economic drama. There isn't a wasted moment in the film; Eduard Grau's cinematography and Dan Bishop's production design are exquisite, even if this is a too-beautiful, Madison Avenue version of 1962 Los Angeles in which everything is gleaming and new. But everyone looks stunning in their luxuriant hair, shiny cars, linear architecture and, of course, impeccable clothing.
The actors all lift their characters above this gorgeousness. Firth is transparent as the steely, fragile George, who looks out at a world that has been bleached of colour. As sees life emerge within and around him, so do we; and this has as much to do with Firth's astounding performance as with the inventive colour-saturation effects. And the supporting cast is wonderful.
Moore gives the flamboyant Charlotte both outer bluster and inner soulfulness, while Hoult is playfully insinuating and Goode adds texture in flashback as the idealised dead boyfriend.
Where the film finds resonance is in its examination of how private and public lives collide so dramatically, especially in an era as repressed as early 1960s America. Not that things have changed that much in the intervening years. As George observes in his meandering lecture, society always oppresses a minority it's afraid of, whether those fears are grounded in fact or not, and especially if members of that minority aren't plainly visible.
Facts and Figures
Run time: 99 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 17th December 2009
Box Office USA: $9.1M
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Production compaines: Fade to Black Productions, Depth of Field, Artina Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 152 Rotten: 27
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Cast & Crew
Director: Tom Ford
Screenwriter: Tom Ford, David Scearce
Starring: Colin Firth as George, Julianne Moore as Charley, Nicholas Hoult as Kenny, Matthew Goode as Jim, Paulette Lamori as Alva, Ryan Simpkins as Jennifer Strunk, Ginnifer Goodwin as Mrs. Strunk, Teddy Sears as Mr. Strunk, Paul Butler as Christopher Strunk, Aaron Sanders as Tom Strunk, Keri Lynn Pratt as Blonde Secretary, Elisabeth Harnois as Young Woman, Lee Pace as Grant, Jon Kortajarena as Carlos