Friday, May 21, 2010

"Solitary Man" gets another great performance from Douglas

Solitary Man (2010) 
90 min., rated R.
Grade: B 

Brian Koppelman and David Levien's (2001's "Knockaround Guys") second co-writing and directing effort, "Solitary Man," is a true actor's showcase for Michael Douglas. Before reprising his Gordon Gekko in the "Wall Street" sequel, Douglas plays fast-talking, moneymaking New York car dealer Ben Kalmen. To ward off aging, a job scandal, and a heart problem, he's a compulsive womanizer, the younger the better, including the legal but only-18-year-old daughter (Imogen Poots) of his current lover (Mary-Louise Parker). His philandering has ruined his marriage to his college sweetheart (Susan Sarandon) and his unreliability has strained his relationship with his married daughter (Jenna Fischer) and grandson. But Ben makes no apologies for his misbehavior. On his side are an insecure college student (Jesse Eisenberg), whom he trains on the art of seduction, and a deli-owner pal (Danny DeVito). 

Douglas's Ben character is quite the self-destructive louse that commits some cringe-inducing sins, but Douglas plays addiction like no other (what with "Wall Street" and "Wonder Boys") and even gives the character some charisma. Then again, Ben deserves an arc, that which the story never achieves. However, it's a provocative character study about human nature and human weakness that never strikes a false note. "Solitary Man" has a smart, acid wit and a juicy, nuanced lead performance, surrounded by shining supporting roles. 

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