Chandler Levack called A Single Man an ‘interesting failure.’ I agreed with her to a certain extent, reminding me of its disappointments, all but one are the film’s fault. A mix of diaspora story and American Gothic, I devoured the book about a day in George’s (Colin Firth) life and it devastated me (that’s a good thing). I found flaws within the casting, since George is ten years older than Firth when the film was released, or that they turned Asian Lois into white, or that all the actors are good-looking except for a Jewish bit part. I’m also going to back sell that despite Firth being theoretically miscast, he should have won the Oscar for this role.
The heading for this film indicates that I saw this again eight hours after I passed out while watching the Oscars. Sure it’s not a great condition to watch and write, but I retained a few things:
Director Tom Ford has given more attention to the film’s surfaces than any of the other film’s aspects, but I finally concede that George and his house, described as a constraining home across a bridge, can look stylish since every self-respecting middle class gay man in the early 1960’s should be dressed or living with class. Charley’s house actually has a better description in the book. But everyone else? And turning gruff Kenny (Nicholas Hoult) into a twink? I suppose the style adds a fictionality within the film, and you can decide whether the latter is a good thing.
George and Jim’s (Matthew Goode) couch scene also makes me think that he has taken Jim for granted when the latter was alive. There’s a power dynamic between them that heteronormative or fictional homosexual relationships have, their book choices show how one is supposedly more masculine or intelligent than the other. This dynamic is subverted by Kenny’s entrance into George’s life, Kenny being more game than George, the latter submissively lusting over the former. Anyway, I actually appreciate how the script and Goode characterizes Jim with sunny optimism, despite seeing him through George’s nostalgic goggles. Goode has always been my second MVP in the movie, but too bad he’s such a jerk.
Emily Watson could have been a great Charley (Julianne Moore) since she’s the right age and nationality. I’m however warming up to Moore’s performance now, and for some reason, it’s because of her dancing. Despite the beautiful exterior that she’s grown into, she dances like she’s trying too hard, making me think of someone who wasn’t loved in her younger years, who certainly isn’t loved by George in the same level that she does.
I found two brilliant starting points in The King’s Speech, both marking many of the film’s themes without overselling them. The first is the microphone, modernity, technology, what Prince Albert (Colin Firth) must overcome. On the surface, the radio is another way to scrutinize the volatile monarchy, especially with Albert who has a stammer. His father George V would say that the wireless means that they have to ‘invade people’s homes with our voice.’ George’s words also imply that the king’s job now needs interpersonal skills. Connecting with the commoners.
The royal court doesn’t realize that modernity is Albert’s best friend. Speaking to the microphone with his ears covered in headphones, his stammer’s gone. The phonograph is a mirror-like device, making him see his potential. There’s another modern innovation that helps him – psychiatry. His wife Queen Elizabeth (the charming Helena Bonham-Carter) hires a speech instructor, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who actually asks why he has a stammer instead of yelling at him or making fun of him. That’s what he needs to overcome his impediment and helping him out of being an ‘incompetent’ king, or worse, being self-destructive.
Leading me to Firth’s performance. His Albert has a temper and the things he yells might make him sound like a spoiled brat. He even puts a heart at moments when he can be unsympathetic, like telling Lionel he’s a nobody. Instead he reacts to Lionel and to the other characters like a person constantly prodded, a man with a secret world where he’s funny, personable, a good king.
My second favourite moment is when Lionel walks on the stage to audition for “Richard III.” This shows an improvement on Hooper’s earlier work, where a male friendship has main and supporting roles. Her he has his own failures, which is why they relate to each other. Instead of Albert predictably hilariously talking Lionel’s ear off, Lionel equally reveals his own pathos, thus helping each other to be stronger.
The Richard III audition thematically brings about the ‘monster’ who wants the spotlight. Like the Shakespearean character, the characters here openly discuss how wrong it feels for Bertie to be kingly. His brother David, or King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) finds something malicious in his speech therapy and even antagonizes him for it, leading him to regress. Lionel also brings up the possibility, which leads to the most devastating argument they would have in the film. Nonetheless, they know it’s inevitable and they have to accept him despite his imperfections.
Nonetheless, Bertie’s doubts creep on him. In one of those scenes, he argues that he has no power yet he has to do all this publicity work. The film had to make a stance, either lying to the audience that the king was the most influential, politically powerful figure in the war or stick to self-improvement and make that Bertie’s outlook, no matter the ramifications. That final self-doubt scene adds either ambivalence or ambiguity. I’m picking the latter even if it’s still a minor problem.
Kudos to the acting, hair and make-up because I didn’t realize until the final credits that Michael Gambon plays George V and Timothy Spall plays Churchill, both of whom add subtle performances of a solidly acted, layered and funny film that humanizes the royal figure. While everyone else is quoting Black Swan, I’m quoting this movie. 4.5/5.
Cameron Bailey announced the TIFF lineup highlights. I saw 11 last year, I would like to see 11 this year. But I only have at the most 80 bucks on my checking now. I get paid on Thursday, but most of that is going to OSAP.
Here’s a long list. I listed 22 because I believe in a .500 batting average. Foreign films jump to the front of the line. I love Americans, but I can wait to watch them by Christmas. Indicated in bold are stuff I really wanna see.
ph. TIFF/ TWC
Barney’s Version, Richard J. Lewis, Canada/Italy
Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky, USA
Casino Jack, George Hickenlooper, Canada
The Conspirator, Robert Redford, USA
The Housemaid, Im Sang-Soo, South Korea
The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper, United Kingdom/Australia
Little White Lies Guillaume Canet, France
Potiche, François Ozon, France
Another ,Year Mike Leigh, United Kingdom
Biutiful, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Spain/Mexico
Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance, USA
Brighton Rock ,Rowan Joffe, United Kingdom
Cirkus Columbia, Danis Tanovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, USA
L’Amour Fou, Pierre Thoretton, France
The Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen Andrew Lau, Hong Kong
Love Crime, Alain Corneau, France
Miral Julian Schnabel, United Kingdom/Israel/France
Norwegian Wood, Tran Anh Hung, Japan
Rabbit Hole, John Cameron Mitchell, USA
Tamara Drewe, Stephen Frears, United Kingdom
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Woody Allen, United Kingdom/USA/Spain