Remarkable stand-out lead performance. Solitary Man is definitely Michael Douglas’ best performance in years, which is an edgy, slick-talking movie that is simultaneously wicked and funny. Douglas is going the route where other aging actors of his generation – Jack Nicholson, Sean Connery, Mel Gibson – have gone themselves. Douglas plays the untamable playboy who lusts after younger chicks and finds no moral error in his behavior.
Douglas’ character Ben Kalmen happens to be a very rich guy. But the catch is that writers and directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien (they wrote “Rounders” and “Ocean’s 13” together) make Ben a guy who has smashed his own reputation and is dangerously close to losing his luxuries, like his high-rise New York penthouse. He spent all of his money buying his way out of jail, he explains. This implies that Ben’s lawyers kept him away from dire fraud charges over his auto manufacturing business.
Barely besides him in his life are his ex-wife Nancy (Susan Sarandon) and his daughter Susan (Jenna Fischer), yet it’s the daughter that puts up regularly with listening to Ben’s lewd sexual conquests. But everywhere Ben goes, he thinks he has the right to invade in on other conversations. Ben’s current girlfriend Jordan (Mary Louise Parker), asks him to escort her daughter Allyson (Imogen Poots) to a college university orientation, and Ben hardly misses a beat to bust in with the younger frat boy turf.
The uncompromising aspects of the story involve how Ben, not only tries to get laid over the weekend, but that he actually does. Which trickles is a domino effect of bad luck and backfiring – risking reputation, respect of family and a bank loan which he is relying on – which sends Ben nosediving. He’s left leaning on Jimmy Marino (Danny DeVito) who runs a diner, and college kid Daniel Cheston (Jesse Eisenberg) who needs the aging bachelor to mentor him in the art of talking to girls. The Humbert Humbert perv in Ben doesn’t want to let up.
Douglas comes off with the kind of Basic/Fatal character qualities that made him an icon 20 years ago, except that “Solitary Man” happens to be a story emboldened by harsh revelations and consequences. Yet at the same time, it is fun to see Douglas revel in a character steeped in slick, lecherous conduct because he is so damn persuasive in action. If you ever thought that Michael Douglas was a great actor denied a challenging role, well, then this is the challenging role he was born to play.
90 Minutes. Rated R.
DRAMA / SEX ADDICTION / FALL MOVIE
Film Cousins: “Carnal Knowledge” (1971); “Mr. Jones” (1993); “What Women Want” (2000); “Auto Focus” (2002).