Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

Solitary Man

Solitary Man
Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jenna Fischer

Rated: R 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: July 23, 2010 Released by: ITD

This dark picture from the writers of Rounders and Ocean's Thirteen, and directors of Knockaround Guys often examines the ramifications of personal and romantic indiscretions with aplomb.

Solitary Man stars Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jenna Fischer.

Douglas's car mogul, Ben Kalmen, has been living with a heart condition for a number of years and his life has hit the skids. It's clear this is a result of lifestyle choices and irresponsible, addictive behavior. The Oscar winner, who'll reprise his famous Gordon Gekko role later this year in a film subtitled Money Never Sleeps, plays someone a few years younger than he really is, and in some ways more brutal than that cutthroat Wall Street executive.

Kalmen has flourished from running a chain of car dealerships (showcased through the likes of Forbes magazine as "New York's honest car dealer") with an uncanny knack with prospective buyers, but the dissolute man has ruined the important relationships in his life. Ex-wife Nancy (Susan Sarandon) and daughter Susan (Fischer) want him out of their lives as Ben's culpable for an illicit act which causes him to fall from grace as a distinguished contemporary entrepeneur.

Like the the period meller Shutter Island this much smaller, but thoughtful dramedy is a series of conversations between an unsettled Ben and those in his orbit, most of whom will be distanced from him. Especially in his dealings with the alluring daughter (Imogen Poots) of his chic girlfriend Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker). Similar to his last meaty part in the well-rounded Wonder Boys, a fair portion of Solitary Man is set in and around college life as Ben serves as a mentor to preppy sophomore Daniel (Eisenberg) and reacquaints himself with a old classmate, now respectable businessman (DeVito, remember them together in Romancing the Stone?).

Though Douglas dominates the film with an understated lacerating turn, there is an ensemble feel in directors and scribe partners Brian Koppelman and David Levien's smart attempt to make the onlooker react to such a loose, if influential person, the titular figure. Ben isn't always one who estranges himself from others as indicated by his relationship with his grandson, and the rich characterization is something the actor unzips with glee, seen nearly in every frame.

And, if elements of Ben's increasingly sad situation are a bit vague, the dry, deft delivery from Douglas and his co-stars make bring the paradoxical into something well-wrought and diagnosed with just the right pauses to emotionally deepen more than if he just got a CAT-scan.

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Solitary Man        B+                  B+ 

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