Due on December 11th, Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” is one of the more hotly-tipped Oscar frontrunners. It’s got just the right combination of gears in motion: a prestigious literary source (Christopher Isherwood), period production design (the early ’60s), and the Weinstein brothers handling the Oscar push. But after paying a reported $2 million for the rights to Ford’s directorial debut in Toronto, the Weinsteins apparently only just realized that the film was, uh, gay.
For those who saw the film in Toronto or Venice, suspicions were first aroused last week when the film’s first poster was unveiled, revealing Colin Firth and Julianne Moore lying in bed together with no allusion to the film’s actual plot — that Firth’s college professor recently lost his lover (Matthew Goode) in a car accident and spends the next 24 hours coming to terms. One could call the full-length trailer that the Weinsteins just released “mysterious” and “evocative” – two minutes of sub-Philip Glass minimalism underscoring disconnected images that was inspired by the narration-free trailer Ford cut to sell the film to distributors. (Apparently, the Weinsteins like this approach so much, they’re also using it for “Nine,” which has been met with audible confusion and derision both times I’ve seen it with an audience.) However, as indieWIRE‘s Peter Knegt has pointed out, the most mysterious thing about it is how the trailer’s been safely de-gayed, subtracting scenes of Goode and male-male liplocks in favor of quotes supporting an Oscar run for Firth.
This isn’t the first time heterosexualizing has happened this year: after “Humpday” failed to be the break-out indie hit it really should’ve been, the DVD cover was tweaked to insert one female in the middle, lest someone get the wrong (i.e., accurate) idea about what, exactly, two stripped-down dudes staring at each other meant. Going a little further back, Knegt also has some totally hilarious “Brokeback Mountain” “For Your Consideration” ads which are so ridiculously straight that the movie appears to be some kind of wretched ’80s relationship drama (or maybe a remake of “Urban Cowboy”).
My main question is why bother? If the potentially homophobic viewers who are being catered to with this ad campaign are tricked into seeing a movie they’d otherwise avoid, it’s unlikely that they’ll be so overcome with the magnificent cinematic experience of “A Single Man” that they won’t want their $12.50 back after the first 20 minutes. More to the point: if you’re going to buy a movie that is important to the gay community, both in its subject matter and when they will be one of your primary audiences, why would you pretend that’s not what it is? If you can’t handle the challenge of marketing it, why buy it at all?
[Photo: “A Single Man,” The Weinstein Company, 2009.]