Solitary Man


Solitary Man

Michael Douglas - alone again, naturally.

(2009) Drama (Anchor Bay) Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Ben Shenkman, Richard Schiff, Olivia Thirlby, Jake Richard Siciliano, David Costabile. Directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien

As men get older, they see their vitality slipping away from them, their attractiveness. It is the nature of men to seek out sexual validation, particularly from younger, more attractive women. We need it to remind us that the lion still has teeth and can still roar when need be.

Ben Kalmen (Douglas) was once the toast of Manhattan. As Honest Ben Kalmen, he was one of the top car dealers in the Big Apple. He had a great wife in Nancy (Sarandon), a beautiful daughter in Susan (Fischer). However, he lost all of it – his wife because of his numerous and public infidelities, and his business because of his shady bookkeeping practices.

Now, he’s trying to get it back. He has a new girlfriend, Jordan (Parker), who used to be married to a mobster and now is trying to get with someone nice. She sends Ben up to a school near Boston with her daughter Allyson (Poots) to help check out the place, which also happens to be Ben’s alma mater – and he is able to pull a few strings to get her in. He takes a tour of the joint with Daniel (Eisenberg), a kind of socially awkward kid that Ben takes under his wing a little bit and tries to educate in the ways of men, at least the way manhood as Ben sees it. And then, Ben does something incredibly stupid and in the space of a few moments wipes out everything he’s trying to do.

Now Ben is struggling openly, now with serious heart trouble he finds a job at a deli with an old friend (De Vito) and learning humility in ways that he never thought he could – but are those lessons really taking? Or is Ben still the same man he always was, doomed to make the same mistakes?

This is one of those roles Douglas has excelled at. Not a very nice guy, is this Ben Kalmen. Like Gordon Gekko and the heroes of most of Douglas’ movies, there is a real son of a bitch at the core of his character. He isn’t particularly likable but in every instance he’s compelling. You hate what he’s doing but you can’t look away. Here, Douglas is at his best – this is one of his best performances in the past ten years hands down. When his doctor tells him that his heartbeat is irregular, Douglas’ face freezes and you can see his world coming to a stop. It’s a terrific moment, one that can only be accomplished by a great actor and Douglas is most certainly that.

His scenes with De Vito, who worked with him so regularly in the 80s, are masterful, two old pros comfortable together with one another and knowing each other like an old married couple. It doesn’t hurt to have people like Susan Sarandon supporting you either, and in all honesty, all of the actors here do a terrific job, with Eisenberg, on the cusp of stardom as he filmed this, particularly good in a role that on the surface seems a lot like the other roles he does but the more you watch him you realize that Eisenberg has some pretty good range that you never thought about.

It’s too bad the story here didn’t measure up to the acting. Unfortunately, there are a few cliches that get in the way of truly enjoying this. In addition, the movie loses steam near the end and the ending is a bit predictable leading up to the final scene.

In that final scene, Ben is given a shot at redemption but a pretty girl walks in front of him. He stands up, with the option of walking after the girl and into his old self-destructive ways, or towards forgiveness and maybe, a life. The credits roll before he makes his choice, but you honestly don’t know which way he is going to choose. Even though the events leading up to this moment are somewhat cliché, you are still left wondering which way events are going to transpire and for my money, that’s a great ending.

This is a seriously flawed work that is redeemed by the strength of the performances, which are almost to a person worth seeing. Ben Kalmen is not someone you’d probably want to have in your life, but he is incredibly charming and I sure didn’t mind spending a couple of hours with him. You’ll no doubt find yourself feeling the same way.

WHY RENT THIS: Douglas is spectacular and gets some fine support from DeVito, Parker, Eisenberg, Poots and Sarandon.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The story was a bit cliché and lost steam in the final 20 minutes.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s plenty of bad language and a fair amount of sexual content.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The college scenes were filmed at Fordham; Douglas’ next movie (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) also was filmed at Fordham and also had Sarandon in the cast.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $5.2M on a $15M production budget; the movie was a flop.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

New Releases for the Week of June 25, 2010


June 25, 2010

There is no "I" in team, but there are two of them in "idiot."

GROWN UPS

(Columbia) Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Maria Bello, Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph. Directed by Dennis Dugan

Five childhood friends, all members of a championship youth basketball team, gather some years later to honor the passing of their former coach. Now married and with kids of their own, they get together at the same lake house on the Fourth of July weekend where they celebrated their championship win years earlier. However, getting older doesn’t necessarily mean growing up and the bickering and childishness that plagued them years earlier begins to resurface.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for crude material including suggestive references, language and some male rear nudity)

Knight and Day

(20th Century Fox) Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis. It’s hard enough to nurture a romance in this modern world of social networking, dating websites and instant gratification. It’s doubly tough when you’re being chased around the world by professional assassins, attempting to uncover a deadly secret and you’re not sure if the man accompanying you is a heroic spy, a traitor to his country or just plain whacko.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of action violence throughout, and brief strong language)

Mother and Child

(Sony Classics) Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson. Three intertwining tales involve three women whose lives have all been touched in one way or another by adoption; one woman who gave her child up for adoption year earlier, another who was herself adopted and a third looking to adopt a child for herself. This first opened in New York and Los Angeles on May 7.

See the trailer, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for sexuality, brief nudity and language)

Solitary Man

(Anchor Bay) Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary-Louise Parker. A New Yorker who once owned a successful car dealership is on the verge of a comeback. His out-of-control libido and bad personal choices helped derail his career and end his marriage. While he still hangs out with his daughter and grandson, the latter who adores him without question, she break off the relationship when she discovers dear old dad is seeing one of her friends romantically. Can a solitary man pull off the comeback of the century, or will the demons that caused his downfall in the first place rear their ugly heads? This first opened in New York and Los Angeles on May 21.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language and some sexual content)