Solitary Man Review

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Velvet-tongued salesman Ben Kalman (Douglas) has everything - doting wife, affluent lifestyle and a loving family. A succession of poor choices, though, leaves him on the brink and unsure where to turn.


A role count not be more perfectly cast than fallen-from-grace Ben Kalmen in this smart, perceptive, man-in-crisis drama with comic tones. It’s ideal for Michael Douglas, never better than here as a sinner who isn’t darkly evil but highly unlikable. Ben is a former high flier with wealth, connections, a great wife (Susan Sarandon) and a daughter (Jenna Fischer) who has loved him in spite of himself. But after a medical scare (!), Ben chose to grow old — or not — disgracefully, losing everything and everyone who once cared.

Now on his uppers and alone, Ben lurches compulsively from one self-engineered humiliation to another, a diehard charmer, forever the glib salesman and seducer. A few more indiscretions and betrayals, however, and Ben is busted, sleeping on the couch of his content old college buddy (Danny DeVito, one of Douglas’ oldest friends, which shows in their relaxed fellowship).

There’s no reason to like Ben, except Douglas has the persuasive screen presence and sympathetic Everyman nuances that make you want him to find redemption despite his many failings. Whether he does or not is almost beside the point. “No matter how low I set the bar of expectation, you manage to limbo under it,” one character complains to him. Douglas is surrounded by a first-rate cast (including Mary-Louise Parker, Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg), but it’s entirely his film, and one senses he brings considerable life experience to it, making his performance fascinating.

A terrific turn by Douglas, and strong support, elevates this character-driven drama above its unlikeable protagonist.