Thursday, 23 June 2011

Best Actor 2009: Colin Firth in A Single Man

Colin Firth received his first Oscar nomination for portraying George Falconer in A Single Man.

A Single man tells of George a homosexual whose lover Jim (Matthew Goode) has recently died, so he decides to commit suicide. 

Colin Firth's is the type of performance that the Oscars do seem to enjoy now more than ever. A problem I most certianly have with film these days is the way so many seem tailored for awards, rather than being films first. But I digress. Well not quite yet because in this film he voice over narrates the fact that he must hide his homosexuality through a facade, where back in 1971 Peter Finch was able to tell us this without having to voice over narrate it in Sunday Bloody Sunday, but I even further digress I must separate this performance from some of the problems I have with modern films.

Colin Firth is an actor who has developed over the last two years a sudden reputation that he is one of the greatest actors, for some reason. I can't quite say I share such enthusiasm about him as an actor, certianly he is not a bad actor I will grant that, but I cannot say he is by nature an amazing one. In fact I would say he falls under the group of actors whose performances can feel just a little bit calculated in nature.

I think that is the case for many of performances, and perhaps here too, but luckily for him it does work in favor of the calculated man George Falconer is suppose to be. George is always suppose to be calculating his approach to each day, creating the George he wants to show to the outside world, and hide the George that is actually on the inside.

Firth is interesting in the way he displays the two George's the one at home, and the one in the outside world. They are not completely different men actually but rather two shades of the same man. On the outside he seems to be rather proper English expatriate, who teaches his college course with a restrained but a strong passion, on the inside he is still an English expatriate but a more relaxed, and in some ways more lively of a fellow.

Both incarnations of George are well handled by Firth although not quite as different as his voice over might want you to believe. The largest part of Firth's performance is George's grief over the death Jim. Unfortunately I never felt in this aspect Firth was as strong as I wanted him to be, he is good in these scenes but there were a few issues I always felt with the performance.

For example when he first hearts about the death Firth slowly shows George's emotional devastation over hearing this. It is well done technically, but still I felt the whole action was a tad calculated on Firth's part, making it seem like a great display of acting, rather a completely genuine human reaction.

Also every one of his flashback scenes with Matthew Goode always left wanting more. They fine enough together. They seem to like each other well enough, and all that, but there seems to be something missing. I just never felt either of the actors, particularly Firth brought about the deeper connection that one would think they should have, since Jim's death is suppose to leave George suicidally depressed.

Also his whole depressing over the death, also always left me wanting a little more, it is fairly well handled by Firth, but I wanted just a little more. For example I wish Firth showed a bit more of struggle to hide his grief well trying to get through the day. I never always sensed the grief was there, yes at some moments but really not enough, since after all it probably should since he is suicidally depressed.

Firth though certainly has  some great moments anyways, despite some of my problems with some of his performance. For example his scene where he talks to the little girl next door is a brilliant moment for Firth, contain a certian warmness of his exterior in that scene which reflects quite interestingly off of his grieving interior.

Also Firth's whole scene with Julianne Moore as Charley is terrific. The two actors together create a fascinating relationship together, becuase together they certainly have a love for each other but rather restrained and very specific one. Firth is interesting in that he shows a different side of George in the way he really shows his bitterness about his loss, and how the relationship with her was just who he was.

His final scenes should be stronger than they are, and I think they are indeed weakened by an overacted, and dull performance by Nicholas Hoult as one of George's students. Their scenes do not have as much power as they should, as George finally truly reflects on his life, and on Jim's death. Firth though still manages a powerful moment or two with proper poignancy to the situation, but unfortunately the overall effect of these final moments aren't as good as they could be.

Firth's performance is most certainly an interesting performance that cannot be denied, after all I usually do not write this much about a boring performance. The only problem was I always felt it was parts of a great performance, but never quite simply a great performance. It is never really obviously lacking, but rather I always though he could have done more with the part. This is a good performance, I have to stress that most assuredly, but it is one I never found myself loving as many do.


dshultz said...


no 5?

Renner for the win, then.

Anonymous said...

I thought he was absolutely brilliant. As much as I love The King's Speech, I thought he was MUCH better in this. (King's Speech is probably still a better movie though).

Anonymous said...

What? Really? I thought you would love this performance! Too bad, well I guess Renner will win, I certainly don't think he was better at all but maybe it's just because I can't stand The Hurt Locker at all!

Anonymous said...

It's a shame he didn't get a solid 5! Can you do 1966 after this year?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with that first statement - it's almost as if he was begging for the awards, especially the following year. One good thing though, he is a whole lot better this year then in The King's Speech.

RatedRStar said...

I'm surprised at the score but at least you still liked him, I reckon you'll rate him less when it comes to 2010

mrripley said...

All i can remember is julianne moore's criminally ovelooked 15 minutes of screen time,i love her dirty joke!!!

dinasztie said...

Wow, a really long but interesting review. :)