With A Single Man, renowned fashion designer Tom Ford does what he knows – shoot in an immaculately beautiful, excessively chic style that’s fit for a men’s cologne commercial. The trouble is that his film, an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel, has a plot and characters rather than just pretty surfaces to gussy up with all manner of cinematographic embellishments, and thus requires more than incessant slow-motion and escalating orchestral music to pass as serious drama. From a black-and-white flashback in which two romantically involved men pose on a wind-swept rock outcropping as if the subjects of a magazine ad for khakis, to a sequence in which heartbroken and closeted professor George (Colin Firth) is hit on at a gas station by an impossibly good-looking Spanish hunk, Ford’s film places superficial appearances over story or thematic depth at every turn. True, his material – about George’s efforts, in ‘60s L.A., to cope with the death of his lover (Matthew Goode) – is concerned with issues of truths concealed underneath manicured exteriors, yet there’s rarely a moment when Ford’s directorial affectations feel inherently tied to his tale’s underlying concerns, most of which wind up openly articulated by George during a classroom lecture on the nature of minority invisibility. A fantastic Firth taps deep reservoirs of grief and remorse and Julianne Moore, as the gaudy, wayward mess of a best friend who pines for George, brings a sloppy charm and style to the neat-and-tidy proceedings. Yet Ford so thoroughly favors self-conscious aesthetics over interior and interpersonal dynamics that A Single Man resonates as more demo reel than actual narrative feature.