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A Single Man full of grace 

Colin Firth's nuanced performance risks making him as much an icon to the gay community as he is to Jane Austen fans

Though designer Tom Ford's greasy ubiquity and controversial Vanity Fair cover has earned him a few critical knocks, his adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's novel hums with grace notes. Set in 1962 California, we spend a day with suicidal yet stolid English professor George Falconer---Colin Firth's nuanced performance risks making him as much an icon to the gay community as he is to Jane Austen fans---who can't shake the ghost of his deceased lover, played by Matthew Goode. A meditation on coming to terms with tragedy, George finds his plans confounded by moments of beauty he can't deny. Ford overindulges in the art direction and wardrobe, as you might expect, but his cast delivers gloss-defying work, including a slightly OTT Julianne Moore and Nicholas Hoult---the boy from About a Boy, all grown up.

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