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Ben (Michael Douglas) once ruled a car-dealership empire vast enough to fuel a glossy Manhattan lifestyle and endow a library at an East Coast university. But by the time he arrives at the college with his girlfriend’s daughter, Allyson (Imogen Poots), who is a prospective student, his world has collapsed around his ears. A business scandal has cost him his income and his marriage to Nancy (Susan Sarandon). His ever-present lust for every passing attractive woman threatens to take what little Ben has left. Even his new relationship with Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker) oscillates with tension. When Ben takes Allyson to tour the school, his motives are more than mixed.
Michael Douglas has spent the second half of his career perfecting playing charming, morally flawed rakes (Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, Wonder Boys). So his performance in Solitary Man--as a morally flawed rake who is somehow ingratiating, if not exactly charming--is a subtle but real revelation of Douglas's acting skills. His character in Solitary Man, Ben, shows elements of his roles in the other films, yet Ben is no master of the universe; he's one step away from pathetic--and just enough so that viewers will be invested in finding out how his story plays out, even if at the same time they'd like to see Ben get some comeuppance. Douglas's Ben gets a late start on his midlife crisis, at roughly age 60, when his doctor suggests further tests on a heart irregularity. In the aftermath of that shocking news, Ben's tidy life (beautiful wife Nancy, played by Susan Sarandon; thoughtful daughter Susan, played by Jenna Fischer) has come undone, rent by divorce, a giant fall from his career as a successful car dealer, and a string of rather nauseatingly inappropriate liaisons with far younger women. Ben should have "hit bottom" by the time Solitary Man picks up his story, some six years later, and in many ways he has--broke, despondent, lonely. Yet somehow Ben can still charm the thongs off the ladies (and this is one area that Solitary Man just doesn't ring true in; Ben may be a good salesman, but no unemployed 65-year-old is that good a salesman). The supporting cast is outstanding, especially Sarandon and Fischer, whose characters should have given up on Ben long ago, and yet still remain invested, even bailing him out, sometimes unwisely. Mary-Louise Parker is also splendid as Jordan, Ben's wealthy girlfriend, who also keeps him afloat financially. The lovely Imogen Poots plays Allyson, Jordan's teenage daughter, whom Jordan entrusts to Ben's care on a trip to check out his alma mater. (Bad idea.) "You can't cheat death, no matter how many 19-year-olds you talk into your bed," Nancy tells Ben, who seems to be listening--yet this old dog may not have it in himself to learn the new tricks he'll really need to make his life work. It's to Douglas's enormous credit, and to the script's, that Solitary Man, and Ben, manage to come off as human and real--even sympathetic. --A.T. Hurley
- Commentary featuring Writer/Directors David Levien and Brian Koppelman
- Deleted/Extended scenes
- Making-of Featurette
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based on the debauchery methods of one person on "how to", with physical presentation.
If I had been correctly advised of content through info write, I would not have purchased the film.
Michael Douglas plays a man nearing 60 who upon receiving some concerning news about his heart from his physician decides to deal with his dilemma by not dealing with it, and instead chasing around young girls. This eventually leads him to leave his wife whom it is hinted that he has been together with for many years. As Douglas' character explains his getting away with the cheating spurs him on to cheat at his job as well. He becomes involved in some fraudulent scheme of which the details are vague, but not central to the story. For it is clear that this is a man who has been on top of his profession, but has had a great fall and now is trying to find a way back to the top while at the same time dealing with the realization that young women are no longer seeing him as the "lion" he used to be, but rather a sad, aging man.
The seemingly one thing he has going for him is his current 40'ish year old girlfriend who is a well-connected woman due to her previous marriage. Michael's character is set to rebound from his prior epic business fail, but he makes a fateful decision with his girlfriend's young and pretty 18-year old daughter that axes any final chance at professional success for himself.
At this point in the story Michael is seemingly alone and at rock bottom. Yet he still finds that he has a friend and an ex-wife that still loves him and wants him back. The movie concludes with Michael needing to make a decision of whether to return to his ex-wife who is waiting for him in the car or to follow the next pretty young skirt that walks by as he is sitting on a bench on the campus of his alma matter. The viewer is left to decide which course of action Michael has chosen.
I'm being a little generous with the 5-star review but only because this is a film that I had no expectations of and was pleasantly surprised to the point that I watched it a 2nd time. Despite making some bad choices Michael's character is very likable and easy to identify with. When you have had success like Michael's character did for so long, you start to think it will go on forever. That you will always be a "lion" as he says. But one day you wake up and realize your an old man and no longer a lion and especially due to his professional failures he finds himself left with nothing. Nothing except of course what matters most - love and friendship, if he chooses it.
FINAL GRADE: A