Ben Kalman is aging: he has heart problems, his marriage is over, he's lost a fortune after being caught cutting corners in his East Coast car business, and he's sleeping with as many women as possible - the younger the better. He's chosen his current girlfriend, Jordan, because her father can help him get a new auto dealership; she's asked him to escort her daughter, Allyson, 18, on a visit to a Boston college campus. He behaves badly, and there are consequences to his love life, his finances, and his relationship with his daughter and grandson. Is there anywhere he can turn? Written by
This film shares its title with a Neil Diamond song sung by Johnny Cash at the beginning of the film. Johnny Cash was known as "the man in black" due to his propensity for wearing all black. Michael Douglas' character spends most of the film wearing black clothing and only occasionally wears anything except black. See more »
You got your little jokes, you know, the Spanish thing, interests are the same, and the studying. But, um, are you getting it, you know, where it counts?
Oh, Ben. Cheston thinks you care about him.
This has nothing to do with him. He's never gonna know about this. Never.
Aren't you a little old for all this?
You're still standing here, aren't you?
Yeah, 'cause I'm contemplating throwing this drink in your face. But I'm not going to, because I don't want Cheston to know what you just tried. So ...
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A creepy character drags us through his own disintegration
This movie is unlike any you are likely to see this year or the next few years. It seems somewhat like a French or Euro remake in that the story revolves around a man who "flaunts convention" and sleeps with any young woman who pleases him, even though his family (ex-wife, adult offspring) are well aware of his bedroom adventures and taunt him about his behavior.
His current girlfriend, who apparently knows something of and tolerates his loose standards, presses him to go with her daughter to a college admission interview over a weekend out of town. When he seduces the daughter, it is a shocking turn of events that marks this film as strikingly different. When she reveals the blatant transgression, the shocks continue. (Am I in Paris here?) So much for the first third or so of the film, which really amounts to the set-up. Disaster follows Michael Douglas' character around like a bad haircut. His chance for a comeback in business, and life, is squashed by the influential relations of his now ex-girlfriend and he descends farther into a world only he would want to inhabit.
With a more traditional storyline, this is where he would either become some sort of psycho killer or pull himself up and out to rebuild his life. Nothing doing here. There is a lot more down and self degradation to follow. He's on a mission.
I was wondering what could trigger not just a moral collapse, but that of a human being who, were are told, was one day the toast of the business world in New York and made so many millions that he had a college library named after him. You see, Ben Kalman, the main character, behaves like someone with no moral backbone at all, someone who either knows no limits or is bent on self destruction.
Fearing that the audience couldn't figure this thing out for themselves, the movie serves an explanation up complete, as if Ben Kalman, victim of himself, could somehow suddenly understand why he was doing what he was doing and consider the idea of change. All too pat, and not believable to boot. We are made to, forced to, care about a deeply flawed character and given an explanation that just doesn't hold water. If he were capable of this level of creepiness, it seems very unlikely that he would have risen to such heights and been loved and adored by so many. Obviously, there must have been some deep character flaw in him all along, but we have no idea what it might have been.
Otherwise decent people do, every day, go off the deep end. Some people commit acts of unkindness, even violence, for which friends and family can never forgive. How can one bit of unfortunate news about possible health problems send a man so far away from his grounding on planet earth and cause him to ruin everything in his life? I don't know, which is one reason, although this is a startlingly original movie with good to great acting all around, that I ultimately don't care about it and wish I could forget it.
There was one truly wise scene with DeVito discussing why he never chases young women that was almost worth the price of admission.
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