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Solitary Man

Solitary Man

By Jonahh Oestreich • October 3rd, 2010
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
SOLITARY MAN (DVD & Blu-ray)

Release Date: Oct 4th, 2010
Running Time: Approx 90 mins

SPECIAL FEATURES include:
Commentary with writer-director Brian Koppelman, director David Levien and actor Douglas McGrath | “Solitary Man: Alone In A Croud” Featurette

Nothing important happens between the first and the final scenes of Solitary Man, or so it seems. At the beginning, once-successful car dealer Ben Kalmen (Michael Douglas) faces away from us watching over the skyline of New York City. He appears to be alone, no longer part of what he’s looking at. In the end, he is alone again, facing us, looking over the campus where a library has his name on it. He is making a decision, and most likely this will be his last chance to turn things around. The End.

Between these scenes we see a man and his life windmilling down. First he learns there is a serious problem with his heart, which he ignores and embarks on a trip of self-destruction. Six years later and about to turn 60, he is divorced from his wife Nancy (Susan Sarandon), has lost his business and his footing, but only after having made way more bad choices than anyone else would need to be cast out.

Michael Douglas & Danny DeVito in Solitary Man
What saved him for so long was his charm, charisma and intellect. He was the kind of businessman that could talk himself out of about anything and lull whoever necessary. Now he tries to get back into the game and his own youth. Much younger women are a matter of course, until he beds Allyson (Imogen Poots), 18-year old daughter of his girlfriend Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker). Obviously, the consequences are threatening to be dire.

Solitary Man is inspired by men the filmmakers call the “Kings Of New York”. Writer-director Brian Koppelman (Runaway Jury, Oceans Thirteen):

“We had spent years talking about men like Ben Kalmen; men with enormous assets, not just financially, but of personality and intellect too; charming, powerful men who, for some reason, betray their gifts and lose their way. They were the Gordon Gekko’s, the Tom Wolfian’s, the men who ran the city and that’s the way they would conduct themselves. It was really captivating to watch and we would always notice them, the way they would order a veal parmesan or sell 25,000 thousand shares.”

As much as Solitary Man is a sound character study, Ben Kalmen seldom has the emotional presence that makes me sympathise with him, one way or the other. He always is one of the businessmen who are equally admired and dreaded, who in the end cause more damage than they do good and, if something bad happens to them, just had it coming.

Solitary Man (2009) DVDMichael Douglas delivers brilliantly, though I didn’t quite believe Kalmen’s attempts to teach the ‘younger generation’ his wisdom, craving for grateful listeners. The movie lacks the events that actually tear Kalmen’s life apart and give him a reason to ‘grow up’, instead we get to see a lot of self-pity and attempts to return to a long-gone grandeur.

Kalmen’s relationship with his daughter Susan (Jenna Fischer) is the actual jewel of the story. She loves her father and tries to help him, but in the end she has to let him go, for the sake of her own family. Susan’s sense for reality could have been a gripping antipole to her father’s trip of denial, rather than playing on the sidelines of the movie, more or less.

The same goes for Kalmen’s wife Nancy and his old buddy Jimmy (Danny DeVito). They contribute bits to the story that only begin to reveal Kalmen’s actual dilemma: to be an aging man once spoiled by success but without real substance in his life.

Ultimately, the stories within the story and the supporting cast make Solitary Man well worth watching. There are quite some witty lines and moving scenes, and I forget that Ben Kalmen sometimes comes off as a down-and-out version of Gordon Gekko, the legendary character from 1987’s Wall Street.

Jonahh Oestreich

Jonahh Oestreich

One of the Editors in Chief and our webmaster, Jonahh is a photographer and journalist who has been working in the media industry for over 15 years, mainly in television, design and art. As a boy, he made his first short film with an 8mm camera and the help of his father. His obsession with (moving) images and stories hasn’t faded since.

His passion for intricate stories and the ‘seven basic plots’ (ask him!) often times makes his friends and family put him in the doghouse for "predicting" too many twists and endings.

You can follow Jonahh on Twitter @Resonance_Zero.

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