Solitary Man

18 Jul

Title: Solitary Man
Year: 2010
Directors: Brian Koppelman and David Levien
Writer: Brian Koppelman
Starring: Michael Douglas, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Mary-Louise Parker, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Imogen Poots
MPAA Rating: R, language and some sexual content
Runtime: 90 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%

Solitary Man is a fantastic reminder of just how great Michael Douglas can be when he shows off his A-game, he’s great at playing the sort of character Ben Kalman is in this one, just take a look at what, to me, is the best performance he’s ever given, the one as Grady Tripp in the incredible Wonder Boys, this is a similar performance, the same sort of man, one with sins, one who’s really far from perfect and one who, as the title of this film says, is solitary. Solitary because he has let down his daughter one time too many, solitary because he cheated on his wife and is also being dishonest with his current girlfriend. And, just like Grady Tripp, Ben Kalman is super smooth and charms the shit out of everyone, that’s why he’s such a good salesman, and that’s why the ride into getting to know him, because I’m not entirely sure we really get to like him, is so enthralling.

Michael Douglas is terrific at these roles, Ben Kalman is a man who, if you look close enough you’ll see all the cracks on his surface, but who is so good at pretending to be just super successful and great that you believe the lie because of his charm and ease with it, and I won’t go ahead at spoiling what the movie’s entire plot and situations are, and that’s just as good, because the joy of watching this film comes mostly from seeing how Douglas creates this performance and what Ben Kalman will do to continue pretending, to continue looking good, to continue lying, and trying not to seem solitary.

I keep saying this one reminded me a lot about Wonder Boys, maybe it’s because of Douglas’ fine performance, maybe it’s because they both dealt with a university, I don’t know, but they both are outstanding films that while funny many times, are not really comedies as a whole, indeed, Ben and Grady’s lives could be just as easily portrayed as tragic dramas, but by making the movie funnier and lighter the director and actors can play with it more, and give performances like the one Douglas, and honestly every other single actor around him, give here, but, as the Johnny Cash song that has the same name as this film will let us know when we hear it at the beginning of this, there is pain in this one, and there are some beautiful moments in this film, beautifully shot and written when Douglas is perfect at showing this pain, and those moments feel extremely real and, thanks to such a smart script and nuanced and skillful performances, these kind of pure moments come along often enough in this film, and that’s something to treasure.

This a seriously great film, I loved it, I loved the performances and I love the cast, and with Michael Douglas leading this tremendous cast we get to see a guy who has played this character before band we see him outdo himself in portraying these sort of roles, we see a veteran Academy-Award-winning actor acting with as much energy and livelihood as a fresh newcomer being given a shot at a breakthrough role, and that vitality translates into the film and engages us with Ben Kalman in a way that’s truly magnificent to experience in films.

Grade: A-

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