Directed by: Brian Koppelman & David Levien Cast: Michael Douglas, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Susan Sarandon Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: R Release Date: June 11, 2010
PLOT: After surviving an almost fatal heart condition, smooth-talking car salesman Ben Kalmen (Douglas) tarnished his relationships with all of those who were close to him. This is the story of him being convinced to try to make things right again.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Even though this has been given a limited release, it’s possible that very general mainstream audiences could take something away from this movie. Anyone that especially likes Michael Douglas should get in line immediately.
EXPECTATIONS: I went in with no knowledge of the story, but only with a curiosity about what it would be like to watch Eisenberg and Douglas work together.
Michael Douglas as Ben Kalmen: If you see some Gordon Gekko-level confidence in this loser, it makes watching this character even better. This is Douglas’ late peak reflective role that has him acknowledging his age, but using an almost childish attitude to help him reach that conclusion. Though Kalmen is constantly avoiding a heart condition, it’s the idea of age that is killing him. Douglas makes this well thought-out creation even more watchable, and supplies this film with a very solid title performance. Score: 8
Jenna Fischer as Susan Porter: She can be swayed by her father like a swing door, but eventually even those can fly off their hinges. Fischer has some quiet edge in this performance, with an aggressiveness brought out by the dysfunctional relationship she has with her on-screen father. Her ways of dealing with her father in the third act are a bit cliché, but her performance doesn’t drop the ball itself. Score: 6
Jesse Eisenberg as Sam Gold: Anyone who has seen Eisenberg perform in a movie before will notice some similar traits of social inadequacy. Here as a college student too geeky for his own good, his typical awkwardness is immediately compared to Kalmen’s colossal cockiness, which makes for some very unique moments of “wisdom” as provided by Michael Douglas’ character. Score: 6
Susan Sarandon as Nancy Kalmen: Even though this is Susan Sarandon, her on-screen appearance time in minimal. Still, Sarandon makes her camera time work, as she provides an effective emotional anchorage to the ways of Ben Kalmen, especially as her character is a direct victim of his selfish ways. The script supports her crucial appearance with some heart-breaking lines. Score: 7
TALKING: The presence of Ben Kalmen is supported by a slew of great bits of dialogue, sprinkled throughout the entire movie. Here’s one that you may have heard from the trailer: “I say a bunch of sh*t, and some of it is truth.” In the sequel, Kalmen could sell bumper stickers with his own sayings on it. Score: 8
SIGHTS: As a smooth talking man, Douglas has many monologues throughout the film. The camera always provides him with space whenever he is offering his backwards wisdom. His charisma is allowed to run free in extended single takes that make him look like the only person in the room. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The title lends itself to a Neil Diamond song, which is heard only once (during opening credits) and performed by Johnny Cash. The rest of the soundtrack is made up of bits of jazzy music, and brief party jam appearances by songs by groups like The Hold Steady, etc. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: Somehow a man that looks like Michael Douglas can get into college parties without a single person batting an eye. Either way, these couple of scenes make the brief odd coupling of Douglas and Eisenberg even more amusing, and also striking when one hears the “life stories” that spew from Kalmen’s mouth.
ENDING: “Don’t know what I will, but until I can find me, the girl who’ll stay, and won’t play games behind me. I’ll be what I am – a solitary man.”
REWATCHABILITY: Yes, and very soon. Douglas' performance is something that can be experienced numerous times.
Dressed in darkness, a lone Michael Douglas walks through the busy New York streets as guided by the voice of the Man in Black. The title track “Solitary Man” is only heard once, but it becomes apparent that the heart of that song has been referenced as inspiration throughout the script's entire creation. As he leads us through his own saga of solitude, Douglas’ charisma earns a special ownership on this kind of character we may have seen before (Up In The Air). Douglas is especially compelling to watch whenever he puts himself into and (tries to talk to his way out of) a plethora of confrontational doghouses, often due to his ways of being a “rich a**.” When doing this, he’s bouncing around a cast of welcome familiar faces that add their support in keeping this man's story of avoiding relationship roots high above normal ground.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10