A Solitary Man

Ben Kalmen is a hard-driven, successful middle-aged (okay, that’s a bit of a stretch given Michael Douglas is 65) family man/car dealership owner having his yearly physical when the doctor gives him some news. What news? Well, maybe nothing, but the doctor wants to run some more tests.

Flash forward a few years. Kalmen’s life is in ruins. He’s lost all his car dealerships due to ethics issues. He’s split from his wife. He’s using his considerable charms to bed every hot chick he runs into. He’s trying to stage a comeback, but—well, see the thing about bedding hot chicks, even when it compromises his ability to function otherwise.
This is the kind of movie that rests heavily on the performance of its lead, and Michael Douglas pulls it off amazingly. In real life, guys like this are pretty creepy. Kalmen is pretty creepy but Douglas’ charisma and acting chops make him a palatable character somehow, even as he’s trying to seduce women who are involved with his fractured family, women who are involved with guys he’s supposed to be friends with, women who are the daughters of women he’s bedded before…
He descends further and further, burning bridges, until he’s down to working in a diner with stable, nice-guy college buddy Danny De Vito. Even there he can’t escape his inclinations or the ramifications of his past acts.
The movie avoids pat answers and neat conclusions, threatening to tie the ending into the beginning, and leaving us to wonder whether Ben will get his act together or whether he’ll just keep spiraling downward. The effectiveness of the movie is in that it feels very satisfying without doing these things.
Susan Sarandon provides solid backup as Kalmen’s baffled wife, Mary-Louise Parker, Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jenna Fischer and Richard Schiff round out the cast. Brian Kopelman directs his (with David Levien) script but this 2009 film never gained any traction last year.
Which is interesting. It has a truer ring and is a lot more intelligently written than most of what gets made, and Douglas’ acting is stronger than ever. The Boy and The Old Man both approved, as did I—but its current IMDB rating is just 6.6.

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