"With his movie debut A Single Man, Tom Ford proves he's just as much of a stylist in the director's chair as he was when he turned around the fortunes of Italian fashion house Gucci in the 1990s," writes Kaleem Aftab in the Independent. "The director has clearly been inspired by the Hollywood melodramas ofDouglas Sirk, an influence also reflected in the swooping score. Like the movies of the 1950s, A Single Man is set in a world bursting with beautiful people. Sometimes too many beautiful people."
For Lee Marshall, writing in Screen, Ford "gets it spectacularly right first time round... This adaptation of the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood about a gay British college professor in LA coping with the death of his partner is both stylistically assured and quietly moving as it charts a day in a life that has been scooped out but also spiritualised by grief and loss. It also represents a quantum leap for Colin Firth, who gives his most nuanced, compelling performance to date in the lead role." And of course, Firth won the Coppa Volpi for Best Actor as Venice wrapped up this weekend.
"[J]ust as you're tempted to dismiss the film as a gorgeous vanity exercise, it reveals a keen beating heart beneath the decor," writes Guy Lodge at In Contention. "I don't want to oversell the film, whose talkiness and modesty of scale will probably keep it at the bijou end of the arthouse, but it's a distinctive, deeply felt debut from someone with a clear, confident feel for the medium."
"Like the speck of sand that seeds a pearl, it's the tiny fleck of kitsch at the heart of A Single Man that makes it luminous and treasurable, despite its imperfections," writes Leslie Felperin in Variety. "Described by novelist Edmund White as 'one of the first and best novels of the modern gay liberation movement,' Isherwood's A Single Man presents a stream-of-consciousness portrait of a middle-aged gay man, known only as George, going about his daily routine in early 60s LA. Ford's script, which, per the press notes, departs significantly from [David] Scearce's earlier draft, remains fairly close in spirit to the original but departs from it in one major direction: Here, Brit expat George Falconer (Firth) is so bereft over the recent death of his longtime companion, Jim (Matthew Goode), in a car accident, that he's planning to commit suicide - a plot point that injects tension into what might have been too quotidian a story had Isherwood's template been followed to the letter."
Screens tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday in Toronto.
Updates, 9/15: "In contrast to Firth's underplaying, the directing has its overblown, operatic soul," writes Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter. "Ford is unafraid of such cringeworthy moments as playing an opera solo over a suicide attempt or having a nattily dressed symbolic figure in Tom Ford Menswear give the kiss of death to the recently departed."
"In the first seven-figure pick-up of the Toronto film fest, the Weinstein Co has picked up US and German rights," report Michael Fleming and Sharon Swart in Variety.
Updates, 9/19: "From an early voiceover explaining fashion's function as armor, continuing through conversations about one character's James Dean-esque haircut and another's new beehive, culminating in another's written instructions about how he wants his tie to be tied for his burial, Ford goes out of his way to explore the role that personal style plays in the expression and definition of identity." Karina Longworth at indieWIRE: "It would be tempting to write off A Single Man as a triumph of surface if there was nothing else to recommend it, but like Mad Men, its cultural cousin in finely designed early-60s ennui, Ford's project spins on witty writing and a couple of performances strong enough to give the beauty depth."
For Movieline's ST VanAirsdale, Ford's "affectations may work in the ad-heavy front 40 pages of a Vogue or Vanity Fair issue, but onscreen they expose the anguish and the artifice of beauty - a fraud at worst, which fuels both George's downfall and A Single Man's own. In other words: The Academy will love it."
"Like much of fashion itself, Ford's movie may be praised because it sells," blogs Ben Kenigsberg for Time Out Chicago. "[T]he upshot of the film seems to be that there's no trauma that can't be at least temporarily soothed by skinny-dipping with a jail-bait pupil."
Update, 9/20: "[I]t's Firth's performance, as a man bereft, for whom solitude is a life sentence, that will win audience's hearts," writes Richard Corliss in Time. "Don't be surprised if he earns an Oscar nomination to match his victory in Venice."