Michael Douglas and a Fine Cast in a Fascinating Character Study
Michael Douglas gives a splendid performance as the title character in Solitary Man (2009), a serio-comedy about an arrogant man who has charisma, but is not likable. The movie features good writing, makes excellent use of Manhattan locations, and has a strong supporting cast that includes Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Susan Sarandon and Danny DeVito.
Douglas creates a memorable character in Ben Kalmen, a sixtyish man who once owned highly successful car dealerships and enjoyed a stable marriage. But he cheated in business and on his wife, and now he's down on his luck, divorced, and working hard to get restarted. He still has the restless energy and bravado that once put him on the cover of Forbes, and a lot of good-looking women still find him attractive.
Ben has a fairly good relationship with his ex-wife (Sarandon), and he also has a sexy girlfriend (Parker). But his life takes a bad turn when he accompanies his girlfriend's teenage daughter (a very good Imogen Poots) on a trip to help get her admitted to the Ivy League college where his name is on the library. Still, he befriends a student (Eisenberg) and renews a dormant friendship with a coffee-shop owner (DeVito). There's humor in the movie, but ultimately Ben is on a downward spiral.
Solitary Man was co-directed by David Levien and Brian Koppelman, and Koppelman wrote the screenplay. Though neither man is well known to the general public, both have a wealth of experience from their previous work on feature films and TV.
Directors' Commentary and Promo-Type Featurette
The Solitary Man DVD provides a feature-length directors' audio commentary track, and if you liked the movie, you'll want to listen to it. The commentary is by both Levien and Koppelman, and it generally manages to be spontaneous and funny, yet reasonably informative. The voice of Douglas McGrath, who plays the small role of the dean in the film, is also heard asking pointed questions to get the digressive directors back on topic. But Levien and Koppelman are especially effective when talking about New York City locations and working with actors. As mentioned in their remarks, there is some affinity between what they do in the film and the work of Steven Soderbergh, Ethan Coen and Woody Allen.
Also on the DVD is the 11-minute "Solitary Man: Alone in a Crowd." It's one of those promotional featurettes where cast and directors talk enthusiastically, but unenlighteningly, about the film, interspersed with clips from it. Still, you get to see what Levien and Koppelman look like. Also, you'll probably be surprised to hear Imogen Poots speak with her natural British accent because in character she's so convincing as an American.
Release Date: September 7, 2010
Total Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language and Some Sexual Content