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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
Michael Douglas and Danny Devito were roommates in New York in the 1960s. 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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Solitary Man tells the story of Ben Kalmen (Michael Douglas in a good performance), a formerly successful car dealer now on a downward spiral. Now close to 60 years old, Ben seems to be living a sort of late identity crisis, chasing younger women and trying desperately to start a new business while his personal life goes down the drain as quickly as his financial situation.
The direction and writing, by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, takes a bittersweet approach to this story, chronicling the events while elegantly letting us decide what we think of Ben. In this respect, I felt they were honest and not manipulative. Unfortunately, this will also make it hard for some people to relate to the subject, unless they have contemplated those situations themselves.
The story is quite simple at its heart and tackles issues that are becoming more and more prevalent in our society. That is, we are constantly told we deserve it all, we deserve it now and we deserve it forever. Ben (implicitly and explicitly) would like to be the person he used to be, has a hard time redefining facets of his life.
Viewers will have different takes on Ben, ranging from admirable to pathetic but he is never demonized nor sainted in the movie. Unfortunately, while the themes are strongly driven throughout the film, the story itself looks more like a series of anecdotes, some of which are not stringed in the most elegant way.
The whole cast around Douglas (quite an ensemble) is excellent, except Susan Sarandon who is surprisingly bland and not up to her usually high standards. I felt her characters had few scenes but they were key to invest the audience and something was lacking there.
The film's ending is great and more food for thoughts but overall, Solitary Man falls short of being a classic due to a few writing issues.
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