Who's In It: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Ginnifer Goodwin, Nicholas Hoult, Lee Pace
The Basics: It's 1962 and Colin Firth is a gay college professor whose longtime partner has died in a car accident. Still grieving the loss, he spends a full day moving through Los Angeles with one destination in mind: his own heartbroken suicide. Along the way he lectures his students, meets a hustler, encounters his routinely homophobic neighbors, methodically ties up loose ends, dines with his boozy pal Julianne Moore and then skinny dips with a flirtatious male student. That he does all this wearing an impeccably tailored Tom Ford suit (maybe the first time someone other than Barbra Streisand has simultaneously costumed and directed a movie) and living in an astoundingly cool, glass-walled, Mid-Century Modern home, makes you feel only slightly less sorry for him and his melancholy state.
What's The Deal: Fashion designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford has said in several interviews that this isn't a gay movie. And he's kind of right. Unlike, say, Brokeback Mountain, where the plot hinged on the misery of being trapped in the closet, this film's sadness is, on one level, about simple spousal grief. Less simple are the pointed moments about what it meant to be gay guy in 1962 and all the indignities those Bad Old Days had to offer a homosexual, like mourning the loss of your loving spouse privately and staying invisible to everyone else. That and how, if you're gay, it's still always a bad idea to be too close to the tipsy female friend you used to do "it" with back when you thought you had no choice in the matter. She always winds up falling down drunk and wearing crazy Halloween monster-wigs just to keep your attention.
Breaking The Mr. Darcy Straitjacket: It had reached a point in Colin Firth's career that he was more or less the same handsome, witty, yet gettable crush for all kinds of mainstream audiences. He was Hugh Grant for people who thought Hugh Grant was too into being funny to be taken seriously. But then his films got bigger and worse and after Mamma Mia! you would be forgiven for thinking he was lost to the Dumb Movie Vortex forever. But he's the sturdiest reason for seeing this movie. He'll move you unless you're made of rock.
Better to Look Good Than To Feel Good: The main complaint I've heard about this movie (and I try not to listen but sometimes you're just trapped in the same elevator with other film critics) is that its emotional power is diluted by Tom Ford's obsessive need for it all to look like a fashion spread. And, sure, every frame of this movie is meticulously designed and beautiful to look at. But those luxurious surfaces are this character's only defense against the world. It's an extension of his suit of armor. So it serves a purpose beyond mere prettiness. And frankly I've seen enough ugly crap like Old Dogs to last me my whole life. Let the artfully half-shaved man make stuff look awesome all day if he wants.