Rated R for language and some sexual content, 90 minutes
"Solitary Man" an absorbing character-driven drama
If you ever wonder why nice guys often finish last, see the new Michael Douglas film "Solitary Man." His character is one of the most unsympathetic and thoroughly unlikable characters seen on screen in sometime, but Douglas, in one of his best performances in years, infuses the character with an indelible charm that'll have you both hating and loving the guy.
Douglas is Ben Kalmen, a self-absorbed, once-successful and wealthy New York City car magnate who's life has hit the skids due to his shady business dealings and his romantic indiscretions. He's dishonest, unfaithful and hard up for cash. He left his faithful, loving wife Nancy (Susan Sarandon), who's now a successful real estate agent, and he's rarely around for his daughter (Jenna Fischer) and his grandson who looks up to him. Ben can't seem to stay faithful to the same woman, as he sleeps with the 18-year old daughter (Imogen Poots) of his girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker). His high-profile crimes prevent him from finding a job, so he spends some time with an old college pal (Danny DeVito) after exhausting his possibilities in the city to try to get his life together.
"Solitary Man" is a downbeat but engrossing drama, superbly crafted and showcasing an excellent performance from Douglas. Douglas has been doing mainstream films for so long that people forget that he won an Oscar in 1987 for playing Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street," one of the most hated characters in movie history (and he returns in a sequel this fall). Douglas' Ben Kalmen isn't as bad as Gekko, but not by much, though Kalmen's biggest crime is his character flaws he won't admit to. Everyone seems to see it but him and continues to make bad decision after bad decision.
The film, written and directed by Brian Koppelman, is an interesting look at a flawed, very selfish character who's old enough to know better. This film provides a meaty role for Douglas, but he's well-supported by Sarandon, DeVito (if you remember, his buddy from "Romancing the Stone"), Parker and particularly Fischer, as the responsible daughter fed up with her Dad's bad decisions and refusal to get help. A couple of subplots and characters are unnecessary and advance the film very little, including the college kid (Jesse Eisenberg) he befriends; his romance with his girlfriend's daughter also comes across as too creepy.
"Solitary Man" is a great character piece filled with many memorable moments (Douglas working in a deli is a treat to watch) and is definitely worth a look. Though it's still very far off, it could also net Douglas his first Oscar nomination in years, something that'd be very well-deserved.