No one does loathsome charm like Michael Douglas! In a career filled with oily characters, Ben Kalmen is easily one of the more reprehensible creations that Douglas has fleshed out. Seemingly without one redemptive character trait, "Solitary Man" doesn't shy away from the ugliness, desperation, and fear that fuel Kalmen's self destructive bent. And as much as you may despise the man, Douglas manages to convey enough humanity and humor to keep you hoping for more. It's an intricately balanced role and Douglas deftly handles its challenges. If you're not with Douglas for good and bad, than you will likely find "Solitary Man" quite unpleasant. Douglas had me, however, and backed by a solid and wildly appealing supporting cast--"Solitary Man" became an amusingly direct look at a man dealing with his own mortality.
With a brief introduction, we meet Douglas as a successful man facing a possible health crisis. Fast forward six years. Douglas is now broke, unemployed and practically unemployable due to a scandal, divorced, and carrying on with a woman for her business connections. He's an aging lothario who seems to be actively working to estrange himself from his family and his closest friends. The thought of not living life on his own terms has caused him to systematically deconstruct everything that was once successful and lovable about his old persona. Douglas is fearless as I mentioned above and his trysts with younger, and some patently inappropriate, women range from comical to quite unsettling. Douglas ultimately does have to start addressing his shortcomings, but is it too little and too late?
While Douglas may be difficult to like--he is certainly surrounded by a plethora of people who still care. The film shines in its supporting cast. I'd single out Jenna Fischer (TV's "The Office") as Douglas's daughter who in many ways is the heart of this piece and Jesse Eisenberg as a youth idolizing Douglas who is the hope of the film. Both are terrific--perhaps Fischer's best work to date. Mary-Louise Parker, Danny Devito and Susan Sarandon also lend solid support. Ultimately, "Solitary Man" may be too slight for some viewers--there are no big declarations and/or revelations. As a character study, it is a fascinating look at a flawed individual making bad choices in order to feel relevant and alive. To see this cast at work, that's all I needed! Not for everyone--but those that like "Solitary Man" will like it a lot. KGHarris 9/10.