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A Single Man (2009) -vs- Far From Heaven (2002)

A Single Man -vs- Far From Heaven

Bryce Zabel, Editor-in-ChiefThe Smackdown

Sex in the late fifties and early sixties involved even more guilt, hiding, and loss than it does today, particularly for gay men of a certain age. But enough about those men, let’s talk about the women who love them or, in this case, the woman… that would be Julianne Moore.

The Challenger

There’s a great performance by Moore in “A Single Man.” She plays Charley, an alcoholic faded beauty who in 1962 still has a thing for George, the gay single man of the title played by Colin Firth. Back in England, before coming to America, they used to have a thing together. Her heart was more in it, obviously, than his, and now all they have is friendship with no benefits.

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The Defending Champion

Seven years ago, Moore was cast as the perfect housewife, Cathy Whitaker, who in 1957 suburbia had the perfect marriage to Frank Whitaker, played by Dennis Quaid. Just one problem. She happens across husband Frank, supposedly working late one night but actually kissing another man. He promises he’s “going to lick this problem” but while quack doctors try to cure him, she ends up hanging around with the black gardener, a relationship that is only slightly more acceptable (if at all) in her community than sticking around with her homosexual husband.

The Scorecard

“Far From Heaven” plays more like “Revolutionary Road” than “A Single Man” — something that will attract some people but probably turn off more. “A Single Man” actually has moments of warmth in it while, in contrast, “Far From Heaven” — caught up in the seriousness of its message — barely can rise to sadness. Julianne Moore is, as expected, very good in both of these films. In “Far From Heaven” she’s a shattered woman whose life plans have just fallen apart, living in a world that seems to care less. She’s not much fun, and her life seems hopeless and she knows it. In “A Single Man” she provides an extremely poignant bright spot as a woman who laughs heartily because the only alternative is to cry. But her character is still willing to put on a record and dance!

The Decision

You’re going to like watching Julianne Moore a lot more in “A Single Man.” She lights up the film with her performance, given that Colin Firth is busy keeping his own performance measured and contained. In this latest effort, she’s like a freckly, boozy party girl Ann-Margret, and it’s a performance that really had me mesmerized. I’d go see “A Single Man” ASAP and enjoy every minute she’s on screen.

About Bryce Zabel 196 Articles
Drawing inspiration from career experiences as a CNN correspondent, TV Academy chairman, creator of five produced primetime network TV series, and fast-food frycook, Bryce is the Editor-in-Chief of "Movie Smackdown." While he freely admits to having written the screenplay for the reviewer-savaged "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," he hopes the fact that he also won the Writers Guild award a couple of years ago will cause you to cut him some slack. That, plus the fact that he has a new StudioCanal produced feature film, “The Last Battle,” shooting this summer in Europe about the end of World War II. He's also a member of the Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild, and a past enthusiast of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. His new what-if book series, “Breakpoint,” just won the prestigious Sidewise Award for Alternate History, and has so far tackled JFK not being assassinated and The Beatles staying together.
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