....Tom Ford's directorial debut is as stylish, slick, beautiful and obsessively detailed as you might imagine. It's as though the fashion designer treated the picture, and every scene in it, as he would when creating the perfectly tailored shirt & suit.
Colin Firth plays the BAFTA winning lead role as George, a gay man who is coming to terms with the death of his long term partner. He is trying to go about a normal day in his life as an English professor in Los Angeles, but as the film slowly evolves it is clear that he is set upon killing himself - a series of flashbacks to happier times reminding him of what he has lost.
Julianne Moore, as Charley, plays George's long time friend and former lover. She seems set upon entertaining George, but it all seems in vain. (Perhaps largely due to her slightly off the mark Patsy-from-Ab-Fab-esque performance). But it is with the introduction of Nicholas Hoult, as Kenny, that inspires more from the subdued George. Perhaps because he sees his younger self in Kenny, or more likely still, a younger version of his late lover, Jim.
The final third of the film plays out with Kenny seemingly only able to delay the inevitable suicide, until ultimately George realises it may not be the right decision after all.
I really enjoyed the film, although the self indulgence is apparent. With every scene so calculated in style, it plays out almost like a 100 minute commercial for a men's fragrance. I also found George's obsessive and almost stylish insistence of what was to be his own death a little hard to stomach, (particularly after the late Alexander McQueen). Lastly, the fleeting appearance of the character Carlos, seemed to me totally borne out of Tom Ford's wish to cast another attractive young man in his film.
But ultimately, the superlatives outweigh these minor impositions. The cinematography throughout is incredible. Each shot a well thought photo. The flash-back scenes were treated to an Eggleston-like techni-colour, in contrast to the main feature that seems visibly and deliberately drained of it - slightly sepia-like. The casts' wardrobe, (again, typically Ford), we're beautiful - Firth looking like a more handsome Michael Caine a la 'Get Carter', in his fitted black suit and heavily framed black rimmed spectacles.
The acting throughout is first class. Whilst I've already mentioned Moore's camp and slightly OTT turn, but it plays against Firth's restrained performance perfectly - for which he has already won a BAFTA. Personally I think Nicholas Hoult turns in a fantastic portrayal of the young, sexually inquisitive student. His American accent was, to me, flawless and his almost perma-tan and piercing eyes deliberately contrasted Firth's monochromatic appearance.
So, for a first motion picture, it is a phenomenal effort from Ford, but you suspect there is a danger that if his next film even strays close to such stylistic qualities as this, it may in turn stray in to parody. Firth is top rate and the supporting cast all complimenting too. A slow, brooding, beautiful film that you should see as soon as you can.