The film follows Michael Douglas as he comes to grips, or doesn't, with his age and the fact that his personal life as passed him by. The movie begins with Douglas receiving the news that he needs some test performed on his heart because his doctor has some concerns. Time then flashes forward six years, where Douglas is now divorced with a daughter in her early 30s (played expertly by Jenna Fischer), a grandson who is five, and a girlfriend (Mary Louise Parker) who he is using for her father's power. Hints are dropped that Douglas was involved in some sort of scam that caused him to lose his extremely profitable business and threw him into a scandal that destroyed his reputation. The rising action begins when Douglas must escort his girlfriend's daughter to his alma mater for the weekend. While in Boston, Douglas makes a terrible decision that threatens to unravel whatever life he has left.
Though this film received little attention, I thought that it was absolutely excellent and worth an Oscar nomination (being that they're handing them out willy nilly now). Susan Saradon plays Douglas' ex and does so expertly with just the perfect amount of anger, pity, and old love. Douglas plays the philandering 60+ year old who still thinks he's 20 perfectly. The end of the movie leaves people guessing, but can also be used as a conversation starter and had me thinking about the film long after I left the theater.
"Solitary Man," stars Michael Douglas, who plays Ben Kalman, a middle-aged man whose annual physical triggers a self-centered need to recreate his youth. He throws off all responsibilities in his life. He was a very successful luxury car dealer, happily married and set for life. The doctor's recommendation to have more tests on his heart shocks him visibly with fear of dying. He does not want to know more or take tests to find out what the diagnosis is.
Over the next six-and-a-half years, Ben transforms into an unappealing pathetic soul as one by one friends and family cut him off. He continues begging people for money and jobs, plus finds time to get into complicated sexual situations with a friend of his daughter as well as the daughter of the woman he is currently dating. His career in a mess and he is a loser with every woman he meets. He cannot find pleasure in positive things, and in the end he is alone, a "Solitary Man."
Somehow Douglas makes this unappealing character real, and the movie is a fascinating drama-comedy.
No one does loathsome charm like Michael Douglas! In a career filled with oily characters, Ben Kalmen is easily one of the more reprehensible creations that Douglas has fleshed out. Seemingly without one redemptive character trait, "Solitary Man" doesn't shy away from the ugliness, desperation, and fear that fuel Kalmen's self destructive bent. And as much as you may despise the man, Douglas manages to convey enough humanity and humor to keep you hoping for more. It's an intricately balanced role and Douglas deftly handles its challenges. If you're not with Douglas for good and bad, than you will likely find "Solitary Man" quite unpleasant. Douglas had me, however, and backed by a solid and wildly appealing supporting cast--"Solitary Man" became an amusingly direct look at a man dealing with his own mortality.
With a brief introduction, we meet Douglas as a successful man facing a possible health crisis. Fast forward six years. Douglas is now broke, unemployed and practically unemployable due to a scandal, divorced, and carrying on with a woman for her business connections. He's an aging lothario who seems to be actively working to estrange himself from his family and his closest friends. The thought of not living life on his own terms has caused him to systematically deconstruct everything that was once successful and lovable about his old persona. Douglas is fearless as I mentioned above and his trysts with younger, and some patently inappropriate, women range from comical to quite unsettling. Douglas ultimately does have to start addressing his shortcomings, but is it too little and too late?
While Douglas may be difficult to like--he is certainly surrounded by a plethora of people who still care. The film shines in its supporting cast. I'd single out Jenna Fischer (TV's "The Office") as Douglas's daughter who in many ways is the heart of this piece and Jesse Eisenberg as a youth idolizing Douglas who is the hope of the film. Both are terrific--perhaps Fischer's best work to date. Mary-Louise Parker, Danny Devito and Susan Sarandon also lend solid support. Ultimately, "Solitary Man" may be too slight for some viewers--there are no big declarations and/or revelations. As a character study, it is a fascinating look at a flawed individual making bad choices in order to feel relevant and alive. To see this cast at work, that's all I needed! Not for everyone--but those that like "Solitary Man" will like it a lot. KGHarris 9/10.
SOLITARY MAN is either a depressing movie or a movie about a depressing society - until the film is over and afterthoughts dredge up memories of very similar people. Then it simply becomes a Greek tragedy. Writer Brian Koppelman introduces a character that is all charm and façade who begins to take himself seriously (believing the false front that has lead him to a 'successful' life) after a routine physician's check up reveals an abnormal EKG. Facing the ultimate fragility of life and the insight that his last years may be approaching more rapidly than he ever thought possible, our 'hero' begins a downhill skid and the effects. It is a march that is sad to watch, but due to the sensitivity of directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien and to the impressive performance by Michael Douglas, it stays imprinted on the brain long after the film's subtle ending fades.
Ben Kalman (Michael Douglas) is the person of interest in this story, a man who six years prior to the opening of the film is informed of his mortality, and in the last six years this car dealer has gone form disposing of his honest reputation to the point of participating in scams, being arrested, bedding every 19 year old girl he can, losing his money, divorcing his wife (Susan Sarandon), losing the respect of his daughter (Jenny Fischer) whose husband requests she not see her father nor expose their son to him, cheating on his girlfriend with important family ties (Mary Louise Parker) by inappropriate activity with her daughter (Imogen Poots), and being refused financing despite his friend (Ben Schenkman) attempts on his behalf. He finally ends up on the campus where he met his wife, meets a shy student (Jesse Eisenberg) and in attempting to give him lessons about how to attract women unveils an even more ugly aspect of his position, and finally meets up with his only friend from college days - the local pub man (Danny DeVito) who may never have reached the heights of Ben but has remained an honest and caring friend. How all of these errors of judgment and despicable behavior catch up with him frames an ending for the film - one that leaves the audience to decide if he has indeed learned form his missteps.
Not a happy story and while billed as a comedy/drama, it is the drama that usurps the comedy. Michael Douglas hands this role with complete involvement: would that we could only care about his character. The stars attached to the cast give excellent cameos. For a 'downer' film it is well done. Grady Harp, September 10
Other reviewers have rightly pointed to Michael Douglas' strong performance in this film, and I agree. I'm not going to cover that ground again. I just want to say that the character he plays is not the only "pitiful" or "pathetic" one in this film. Other than cameos by Danny Devito as the old college chum and Susan Sarandon as the wife he left for the proverbial younger woman, there are no shining examples of good behavior in "Solitary Man."
Unlike in Douglas' tour de force, "Fatal Attraction," those hoping for some wonderful bum shots are not going to get them; but the woman scorned in "Solitary Man" is still a nightmare. First, she pushes him into taking her daughter for admission interviews at his old college, to use his "pull" to get her in. Was it such a surprise that the daughter turned out to be as jaded and manipulative as her mother? And what does the man do after this young woman goes out of her way to yank his in-denial chain? Predictably, they wind up in bed with each other (two consenting adults) and that should have been the end of a tawdry one-night stand.
[Cue Devito as Louie DePalma: "But, NOOOOOOOO!"]
The daughter goes out of her way to spill the beans to her mother in a vicious little vignette, and then the woman scorned goes out of her way to visciously trash what's left of his life. It just takes a few angry phone calls, and agreements he was counting on are summarily withdrawn and he is treated like scum by everyone except the only two friends he has. One has to wonder what was going on between the mother and daughter and if the daughter did not set up the whole thing to get back at her mother for some slight. The movie could have been stronger had this been explored a little more deeply, but viewers can use their imaginations as to motive.
Douglas' character is not a sympathetic one, mind you, and he's not the brightest bulb when it comes to relationships--how many men do you know who are?--but he isn't conniving and downright mean. He is like so many middle-aged men who long for (and sometimes act out) their fantasized glory days, some more pathetically than others. Men leaving their wives for girls young enough to be their daughters (or granddaughters) and the mid-life "red sports car syndrome" are cliches precisely because the behaviors are so prevalent and (sometimes) laughably predictable. But most men do eventually grow up.
Would this washed-up car dealer have finally matured and dealt with his dependence on all things young and bright and shiny had he not had to hit rock-bottom first? It's hard to say. But I think I know what he did in the end: He did the only thing that a grown man would or could do.
I Timothy 6:9 says"... those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction."
As with Daniel Plainview in "There will be Blood", Ben Kalmen descends into a similar abyss of depravity and self absorption and thus becomes the "Solitary Man".
Brian Koppelman has crafted a Godless, hedonistic world as we focus almost exclusively on the Michael Douglas' character while all the rest of the great ensemble cast remains in orbit around his increasingly darkened sun.
Inexplicably the movie is listed as a comedy - though to my mind there is very little to laugh about - in fact I found the story compellingly depressing. The gentlest character is played in an understated way by Danny DeVito as an old college friend turned deli owner who demonstrates genuine, though some might say, undeserved compassion. Another Douglas character, that had similar issues but played comedically was his part in the remake of "The In-Laws"
Part of the compelling nature of this movie revolves around the inability of the Douglas character to recognize his own fallibility. He persists in the reckless and dangerous pursuit of pleasure, all the time living in the potential shadow of heart failure. It is the opening scene of the movie that provides the metaphor for the entire film as Ben chooses to ignore a potentially damaging diagnosis of heart disease.
In the end the movie is appropriately ambivalent as the screen turns black without us knowing whether Ben Kalmen turns towards home or continues towards his inevitable destruction.
The movie is justifiably rated "R" and has an extremely mature theme including a rather graphic sex scene - central to the plot - but distasteful nonetheless. The language and and subject matter are intrinsically adult in nature. That being said, this is a good, if somewhat depressing movie, but worthy of adult viewing.
on July 15, 2014
I did not really care for this movie. Out of all of Michael Douglas's movies, this one was one of the worst ones. It seemed that he was in a movie with bunch of unknown actors whose acting abilities was aweful, with the exception of Susan Sarandon, and I hated the story line,
a rip-off look of Johnny Cash with a middle age man going through male menopause and the story line depicted him as being some type of middle age pervert. I also have to say, being an afro-american person, there is no way that I would talk or speak to my parents in a disrepectul manner and I am 61 years of age. White people seem to allow their children to talk to their parents in any kind of fashion. I think it is terrible. If I spoke to my parents the way some of these white people's children spoke to their parents, I would be picking my mouth and teeth off of the floor!!!! We are to show our parents respect at all times regardless if we disagree with them. They are the parents and we have the role of raising our children with respect to our parents and everyone we live around., DLWC, Naperville, IL 8/27/14
on September 28, 2015
Released at the height of the Great Recession in 2009, Solitary Man is a tiring meditation on everything from the raging denial of old age to Bernie Madoff scaled bouts of willful self-destruction. This trifle finds the always reliable Michael Douglas in full scenery chewing mode as Ben Kalman, a Sixty something NYC businessman who has built a local empire of automotive dealerships through cunning and a saturation presence of obnoxious television commercials. He's a self-made man, local celebrity and cocksure Lothario, allowing him to exude an oily self-confidence that you can witness in spades at any private cigar bar or nouveau riche country club.
To start with, the core theme of the film makes no sense whatsoever. During a routine medical check-up, Douglas/Kalman is told he may have some serious heart issues. So, instead of confronting his condition head on as an adult, Kalman decides to live out whatever time he has left as an unrepentant hedonist and sacks his automotive empire and reputation through a poorly conceived scheme of wholesale customer fraud. At night he attempts to turn back the clock and channels his arthritic libido at the young ladies, unleashing a fusillade of pathetic "hey, she really digs me" bar room affectations with surprisingly strong (but not realistic) results - especially among college-aged Millennials. In the real world co-ed thoroughbreds of this caliber might want to take a tumble with Michael Douglas but, I would suspect are far less inclined to swap spit with this cum laude loser named Kalman.
For nearly two hours we are forced to watch Kalman's downward spiral as lock-jawed voyeurs, completely paralyzed in disbelief as he bluntly decapitates every vestige of his former life. In the process a stellar cast (Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer and Jesse Eisenberg) is completely neutered by the double-barreled dime-store moralizing of Writer/Director Brian Koppleman. This is clearly a message movie with one overriding message - don't waste your time.
on August 1, 2013
Some movies stick to you. This is one of them. Retirement age? what is next? how life went by?
Great acting and a very good story.
If you like this movie, you definitely need to watch the following: About Schmidt - The Pledge
I love Michael Douglas, and that being said, I enjoyed his acting in this movie but the story doesn't have much of a point. All through the movie, I kept waiting for the ghost of Christmas past to show up and point out the way for Ben. He's so over the top dumb that it becomes a parody of sorts of what not to do when you are sixty years old.
The acting is good, but the story doesn't really move anywhere and Ben is a dork throughout and doesn't really change and hits the very rock bottom that he can due to his high libido, his unrealistic expectations, and failures in life. Okay, most of us can figure out what happens when you act like an idiot, and this just points it out, be it from a mid-life crisis, or whatever the case. So, in the case of this movie, the acting is good but if you expect a great story, see one of Micheal Douglas's other movies that actually showcase his talent and a good flick all in one.