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Laramie Movie Scope:
A Single Man

Great performance in a depressing movie

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 2, 2010 -- I usually don't bother reviewing films if I haven't seen them in a movie theater, but this one irritated me a lot, hence this review of a film I only saw on DVD. I wanted to see this, so I put it on my Netflix list even though I seldom buy or rent a movie I haven't already seen and liked. This film reminded me of why this is a sound policy. I wasted a spot on my Netflix list for this slow, sodden, depressing piece of crap? What a mistake. All right, it is true that Colin Firth gives a wonderful performance in this film, and he deserved his Academy Award nomination. The trouble is, he spends half the film with a gun to his head trying to commit suicide. If I had known that, I wouldn't have rented the film. This is the kind of film I've walked out of more than once.

I don't have a problem with depicting suicide per se in films. I do have a problem with films that glamorize suicide by making it appear that suicide is only committed by charming, articulate, intelligent people and which make it seem like suicide is a proper response to life. All the best and brightest people commit suicide in these kinds of movies. People that choose life are losers. Is that sick or what? Enough of that rant. Back to the story.

Colin Firth (of “Love Actually”) plays Professor George Falconer, a British ex-patriot living in the U.S. in 1962 and teaching college courses at a college well beneath his abilities. He is a homosexual whose lover, Jim (played in flashback scenes by Matthew Goode), is killed in a car accident. Because of the social stigma attached to his sexual orientation, he is denied the opportunity to give full voice to his grief, except to his closest remaining friend, Charley (played by Julianne Moore of “Children of Men”). He is not allowed to attend Jim's funeral because the family disapproves of him. Most of this grief is shown in flashbacks. In current time, George is a lonely shell of a man who has lost his will to live. Hence the gun to the head.

This film is supposed to be a meditation about living life in the moment, which is an overrated goal. Context is important. George expects this is going to be his last day on earth, so he does things he doesn't usually do and is keenly aware of each passing moment. A deeply private man, he finds himself speaking his mind and not worrying about the consequences of what he says. Commenting on the Cuban Missile Crisis, which happens during this time, he sets aside his usual lecture to talk to his students about fear, specifically fear of the other, indirectly referring to himself (without mentioning what makes him different). His is a lesson unlearned by the proponents of Proposition 8, who could be sitting in the same classroom nearly 50 years later. To an annoying child who lives next door and who keeps pointing a toy gun at him, he asks with deceptive mildness, “Would you like me to kill you?” This is not a normal day.

At first, it seems that George is able to express only a single emotion, and is pretty subdued about it at that, but later we see George run the gamut of emotions from sorrow to joy. It is a bravura performance by Firth, who at last seems to shed that famous “Mr. Darcy” elitist sour disapproving reserve at times in this film. The director of this film, Tom Ford, intends this film to be a celebration of life, but it doesn't really come off that way. The celebration segment is very brief. The balance of the film is too heavily weighted towards the depression side of the scales for me. Great performance by Firth, though, and the camerawork by Eduard Grau is arresting at times, although the slow motion effect is overdone. The film is slow enough already without all that. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2010 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)