johnlink ranks SOLITARY MAN (2009)

The Blu Ray cover boasts that this is Michael Douglas’ best work since WALL STREET and WONDER BOYS. This was made in 2009, but we can put aside the trumpeting of something as someone’s best work in a mere nine years. If a critic is going to put SOLITARY MAN in a category with those films, then it is a movie I want to see. But how was it?


I watched SOLITARY MAN (2009) on 5.27.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Ben (Michael Douglas) is a modern anti-hero. He is divorced from a wonderful woman, Nancy (Susan Sarandon). He has a wonderful daughter, Susan (Jenna Fischer). He has a seemingly nice girlfriend, Jordon (Mary-Louise Parker). Things are going well enough, even if it is clear that Ben is using Jordon for her business connections.

See, Ben used to be an honest car dealer. Then he stopped being one. He got himself in trouble, plead out, and lost his business. He was enough of a local car salesman celebrity to have maintained a certain social status. He is on the precipice of a new deal which will get him back in the game.

The only problem is, he can’t help control any of his impulses. He begrudgingly gives in to Jordon’s demands and brings her 18 year old daughter, Allyson (Imogen Poots), to visit his alma mater. Unfortunately, Ben sleeps with her. This turns out to be a secret Allyson can’t keep.

Ben plunges into darkness again. He ruins relationships as he goes. Things drag on for awhile before he lands on his feet working at a deli with an old buddy, Jimmy (Danny DeVito). He finally finds a modicum of happiness.

This is a nice role for Douglas, but the world created around him isn’t always up to the standard he sets. This is in the style of a movie like WONDER BOYS, very close thematically in fact, but it lacks the humor, the gentleness, and the brilliance of that movie. SOLITARY MAN is character driven, but not all the characters seem particularly driven.

While entertaining, this doesn’t fully do what it sets out to do. The big questions center around life/death and doing things on your terms. Douglas does a great job of becoming increasingly vulnerable and unlikable, but the script makes things play out in too simple a way before not answering the final question of what he will do next.

That’s a big things in indie comedy: That ambiguous ending where a character has a choice between two paths and the movie ends before he takes one. SOLITARY MAN makes this a quite literal choice unmade. In some movies it feels organic. Here, it feels like Directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien are turning the cameras on the audience and asking “What will YOU do?”. That might work, except the answer is painfully obvious. When a film so directly deals with narcissism it would be nice to see the 180 complete. Instead, we get a 179 degree turn.

Despite all of that, this isn’t a bad movie. The acting is solid and the humor is decent enough even if it doesn’t lead to deep belly laughs. This is one which may be worth hitting up once, but you probably won’t find yourself eager to come back.





~ by johnlink00 on May 28, 2014.

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