Has this ever happened to you? There's a movie that you want to see, know your should see, and then life gets in the way and you forget about it. Well I am happy to say that because of cable, I got to see one of the aforementioned movies this weekend - A Single Man.
I have been a huge Colin Firth fan ever since I saw him walk out of that pond, dripping wet, in Pride & Prejudice, as many other women will attest to. Please, both Bridget Jones books talk about the beloved Mr. Darcy. So when A Single Man came out I wanted to run to the theater, but somehow life got in the way.
If you haven't seen this movie, you are missing out. The movie takes place Nov 22, 1962, during the Bay of Pigs Debacle, Elvis is a threat to all women's virtues, Kennedy is still alive and the Beatles haven't gotten on Ed Sullivan yet. Basically, Camelot before all hell broke loose.
George Forester (Colin Firth) is a closet homosexual, English college professor living in LA in the early 1960s which means that everything is all about appearances. Everything must look perfect on the outside while inside you are dying to scream or make some kind of truthful human connection. For the last eight months, George has been suffering nightmares of kissing his dead lover Jim goodbye. This was when Jim died in the snow from a car accident with their two dogs on a snow covered road in Denver while Jim was visiting his mother. This morning George wakes up to find the melting snow he felt in his dream is a puddle of ink from his broken fountain pen in the bed next to him. George tells us in voice over waking up for the last eight months has actually hurt so today is the day it ends. George has decided to kill himself.
George tells us that it is actually a process that he goes through everyday to transform himself into the "George that everyone sees. The right hair, the right suit, the right clothes. That he must wear to be accepted and deal with the outside world. They are all part of his armor." Appearance is so important.
Poor George every little thing in the house reminds him in some way of Jim. Mostly the phone ringing reminds him because that is the way he found out about Jim. Jim's cousin called to tell him about the accident, Jim's death and one of their dogs, but another wasn't found. George tells him he will fly out straight away for the funeral, but the cousin tells him not to come to the funeral in Denver because it is for family only.
There is a great deal of humor in this movie mixed with the sad. For instance George is sitting on the toilet reading and catches himself watch his annoying neighbors out the window. One of the boys has a metal detector and the other boy, girl, and their mom help dig up what he finds. It's a coin which the wife goes to show the husband, but he couldn't care less since all he cares about is how his wife got dirt on his suit. Funny, but sad. Funny because George is watching all this on the toilet and the mom (Gennifer Goodwin) sees him and waves to him. They both then look away trying to save face.
George goes to work, but sees everything in a new way since he has decided that this is last day. The women he encounters look prettier. He tells his colleagues what he thinks. One of his colleagues tells him that he has had a bomb shelter built and had three contractors work on it so no one knew what he has. When the time comes he won't have to share his shelter with anyone. That there will be no time for sentiment. George tells him that if there is going to be a world without sentiment that he doesn't want to live in it.
In George's class, they are discussing Aldus Huxley and one of his students asks him if Huxley was an Anti Semite and George tells him no. The Germans were wrong to hate the Jews but the Germans were not without cause. It's just that the cause was imagined. The cause was fear. George then goes on a rant about how society singles out any group that is different because of fear of the minority by the majority. The minority must pose some kind of threat even if imagined. An invisible threat is much greater. Minorities can be groups of anything: blondes, people with freckles, etc, but we know he is talking about himself. The homosexual and how the fear of him is why he has been persecuted by society. George looks around and sees that this is the first time he some of his students really engaged in what he is saying. He says fear is what controls us. The government uses fear to control us, so we will be afraid of a tiny island in the Caribbean, of growing old, of Elvis's hips.
George's lecture reaches one student in particular, Kenny Potter (Nicholas Hoult) who I think looks like a younger version of George's Jim. Kenny follows George out of class across campus all the while talking about exactly how George feels about not fitting in and how his thought scare him. It's like Kenny has found someone who gets him. Later when George is in his car looking at his gun in his briefcase, Kenny startles him by knocking on his window. He asks George if he is going on a trip, because he saw him clean out his desk. George always says he feels invisible. Well this proves someone is always watching and cares.
He goes to buy bullets and to the bank to his deposit box. While there he encounters Jennifer, the neighbor's daughter from earlier. She tells him that she likes his bushy eyebrows and shows him her pet scorpion, Charlton Hesston from Ben Hur. She also tells him that her brother Tom, who wants to be a set designer, put columns on the jar like the coliseum. Jennifer says her Dad says that he would like to put George in the coliseum because he is light in the loafers. She doesn't understand because George isn't wearing loafers and that Tom is probably light in his loafers, but he always wears Keds. Wow, little ears hear everything and repeat it.
Eyes are a big symbol in this movie. George focuses on the eyes of his students. When he calls his best friend Charlotte to see if she needs him to bring anything to dinner, she says Gin Tanqueray because she likes the bottle. All the time she and George are on the phone she is lining her eyes painstakingly. When George gets to the liquor store he sees a dog just like the two he and Jim had. He smells the dog's head and tells the owner that terriers smell like buttered toast. He parks under a poster of Janet Leigh's eyes from Psycho. On the way out of the store, he runs into a beautiful Spanish man so beautiful that he drops the gin and the Spanish guy drops the Lucky Strikes in the glass and gin. George goes back in and buys two replacements.
George takes a cigarette and tells Carlos that he has an amazing face and that he should use it before it's gone, but he tells him in Spanish and Carlos tells him that his Spanish is very good. He says he wishes he had used it more and Carlos tells him he may still get the chance. George takes out two twenties and puts them in Carlos's hand and walks away, but Carlos follows thinking it a pickup.Then George tells him no. He is getting over an old love. Carlos says that his mamma says lovers are like buses, you just have to wait for another one. Carlos says no one ever gave him anything with out expecting something in return.
Back at home, before heading to Charlotte's for dinner, George lays out all his instructions for his death funeral arrangement and his suit down to the tie is to be tied in a Windsor knot. Very controlling. He also tries to plan shooting himself which proves to be very comical in that he can't figure out he right way to put the revolver in his mouth with the pillows right. Then he decides he doesn't want to make a mess so he tries the show with the curtain closed. Then he tries zipping himself up in a sleeping bag with the gun, but gets stuck and of course the phone rings.
George goes to Charlotte's house for dinner. Charlotte is George's longest and closest friend. They slept together a few times back in London and I think she's been in love with George ever since. We, silly women in love with gay men, harbor that hope that someday they will look at us as we look at them and change their minds. Never happens.
After food, lots of gin, laughter and dancing they end up on the floor talking. Charlie asks George if he ever regrets them not getting married and having children and he says no he had Jim. Then she mistakenly says no like real love and George shouts at her that what he and Jim had for 14 years was true love and would have lasted had Jim not died. He tells her that she doesn't know about real love since her marriage only lasted nine years and her son won't even call her. She apologizes saying that she is sorry and that she is just jealous that she never had what he and Jim had. She wishes she could have had it with George. She then tries in vain to kiss George and he lets her, but ends it quickly. Poor Charlotte.
George goes home, but there's nothing to drink in the house so he goes to the bar where he and Jim met. He orders a pack of Lucky Strikes, a bottle of Scotch and in walks Kenny Potter. They sit and drink and Kenny says he needed to talk that the past doesn't matter and the future is all there is. He says how frustrating it is that we are trapped in these bodies without a real connection. George tells him that the only thing that has made his life worthwhile is the few human connections he has had. I think he is slowly realizing that Fate has put many people in his way today for just those connections and to make sure that George knows he isn't invisible; Kenny, Jennifer, The Dog, Carlos,Charlotte.
They end up going swimming and George in his drunken state almost drowns, but is saved by Kenny. Kenny takes him home to put a band aid on his head where he hit a piece of coral. They sit up drinking and talking. George finally asks what Kenny wants thinking it's sex, but Kenny says that he thought George looked like he could use a friend. He was worried about him so he wanted to watch over him. George passes out and wakes up in his own bed with Kenny asleep on the couch next to him with George's gun in him hand. George smiles in a way that lets me believe that he now thinks there is a reason to live. That there is kindness in the world and no one is truly invisible. He takes the gun from Kenny and locks it up. Then he goes and takes the letters and instructions he left for Charlotte and burns them in the fireplace. He sits back down on the bed and suddenly has a sharp pain in his left arm, hits the floor, and realizes he is having a heart attack.
He suddenly sees Jim in a suit from his dream come kiss him and them he dies. I wish that George hadn't died, but the whole movie he planned his death. I guess the higher power had other plans and that George's death was on His terms. I think this movie could have also be called "be careful what you wish for" for that very reason. It's like the saying goes, " Want to make God laugh, Tell him your plans."