Solitary Man Review
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No one plays the slick yet distinguished businessman quite like Michael Douglas. Think Gordon Gekko. Or Nicolas Van Orton. Or even cheesy old Uncle Wayne. He just has a knack for playing characters who are dangerously charming—smart, selfish, and calculating, yet somehow still completely irresistible. So Solitary Man’s Ben Kalmen seems almost like a custom-made Michael Douglas role.

Not long ago, Ben had it all. He was a successful car dealer with a huge chain of dealerships and a loving and supportive family. But, as the old saying goes, that was then…

Now, Ben’s life is a mess. A string of affairs with younger women led to his divorce, and a huge scandal led to the complete collapse of his once-prosperous business. He’s dating a woman whose father could help him rebuild his career, but when she discovers what (and who) he’s been doing behind her back, she ends their relationship, ruining his chances of owning another dealership in the process.

  
 
It seems that Ben has hit rock bottom. He’s selfish and unreliable—and even his long-suffering daughter, Susan (Jenna Fischer), has had enough. So he turns to his old friend, Jimmy (Danny DeVito), to help him get back on his feet again.

Though Douglas has played roles like this one before, he’s still as enchanting as ever as Ben—a character that, in the hands of a lesser actor, could have easily come off as completely, irritatingly despicable. Because, well, that’s exactly what he’s become. Years ago, he willingly threw his life away, and he never looked back. Now, despite his almost total financial collapse, Ben is still pretentious and condescending. He’s infuriatingly irresponsible and immature. He’s the kind of character that you want to hate—because he’s just so unbelievably arrogant. Yet Douglas gives him such an irresistible charm that you can understand why people keep falling for his schtick—why people will help him out, buy his cars, fall right into his bed. Sure, they’ll hate themselves in the morning for doing it, but they just can’t help themselves.

Still, Douglas’s Ben may be a lovable scamp, but Solitary Man isn’t the dark comedy that it promises to be. Though there are plenty of laughs, the film is really more tragedy than comedy—the story of a man who seems completely oblivious to what his life has become, even as he sinks deeper and deeper into desperation. In fact, it’s often quite heavy, though it does offer just the slightest bit of hope in the end.

Obviously, Solitary Man is Douglas’s film. The rest of the cast members play minor roles, simply because that’s the nature of Douglas’s character: he refuses to let anyone play a major role in his life. Still, the rest of the cast is phenomenal—even in their tiny roles—from DeVito as Ben’s voice of reason to Mary-Louise Parker as his scorned ex-girlfriend.

So while it may not be the easy-going comedy that it portrays itself to be, Solitary Man makes a fascinating drama, exploring the grisly train wreck that one man has allowed his life to become. Douglas’s fans won’t want to miss it.


Blu-ray Review:
The Blu-ray release of Solitary Man includes a few of the basic special features: a trailer, a making-of feature (Solitary Man: Alone in a Crowd), and a commentary track, hosted by directors David Levien and Brian Koppelman (who also wrote the screenplay) and actor Douglas McGrath (who plays a tiny role in the film). Though they’re all pretty standard features, the making-of feature is still worth a look, if only because it gives viewers a few extra minutes with the film’s extraordinary cast.

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