Published: 11 February 2010
by DAN CARRIER
AT LAST it has happened! There is a Colin Firth film that I can sit back and enjoy. I have always considered him overrated, but now I realise it’s not so much Firth, just the calibre of the movies he has previously made.
Think Bridget Jones’s Diary (a mistake he made twice), Hope Springs (dearie, dearie me – you won’t remember this one, with any luck – it was a rom-com with Minnie Driver and is as charming as a dead mouse in a box of cereal). And then Love, Actually, Richard Curtis’s vomit-inducing eulogy to Blairite Britain. As if this isn’t bad enough, he was also in the most atrocious film ever made, a turkey that smashed box office records, the unforgiveably awful Mamma Mia!
Yet here we have him in an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel by first-time director Tom Ford, and the result is a gorgeous-looking film that allows Firth a platform to show his real talent. Ford has previous – a fashion photographer and designer, he has unsurprisingly created a stylish and watchable film.
The action takes place in Los Angeles in 1962. Isherwood had moved there at the outbreak of the Second World War, and like his Berlin novels, there is a sense of autobiography. The story focuses on a day in the life of Professor George Falconer, a Brit reeling from the death of his partner Jim (Matthew Goode). Alongside him is his best mate Charley (Julianne Moore). Charley, a lush whose beautiful looks are fading, would perhaps like to rekindle an affair they had before Jim appeared on the scene.
Poor George appears to want nothing more than some grief-relieving consoling, and a way out.
Ford has made a beautiful film, but it would be wrong to think this is style over substance, or that the story is driven by the sexuality of the leading man. It is completely inconsequential, as Ford puts it: “I like chocolate cake. Do I define my life by the fact that I like chocolate cake? For me, that’s what sexuality is. I didn’t think of making a movie with gay characters. This is a universal film.”
Essentially the core is about a personal tragedy, and it offers Firth the role of his life.