A Secret Service agent is framed as the mole in an assassination attempt on the President. He must clear his name and foil another assassination attempt while on the run from a Secret Service Protective Intelligence Division agent.
When the daughter of a psychiatrist is kidnapped, he's horrified to discover that the abductors' demand is that he break through to a post traumatic stress disorder suffering young woman who knows a secret...
Now out of prison but still disgraced by his peers, Gordon Gekko works his future son-in-law, an idealistic stock broker, when he sees an opportunity to take down a Wall Street enemy and rebuild his empire.
A teenage girl living in California suburbia devises a metaphysical experiment designed to save the world from what she sees as an impending doom...but the results of such an experiment prove to be both beneficial and destructive.
An English Professor tries to deal with his wife leaving him, the arrival of his editor who has been waiting for his book for seven years, and the various problems that his friends and associates involve him in.
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 »
When my father gave me this place years ago, I used to dream about these girls. Every night, dreams, all kinds of dreams about 'em. But then I'd see them coming back after graduation. They'd come to homecomings, ballgames. They'd sit at the same tables, eat the same food. And I'd look at them and I noticed, they don't stay like this. None of 'em. They put on years and pounds and wrinkles. And I got one like that at home. So. And we can talk to each other. I know her and I'll always know her.
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Michael Delivers a great performance in an unbalanced, uneven character study
It is rare for an American film to give us a despicable protagonist from beginning to end, but that is one of the notable achievements of Solitary Man (2009), the latest opus from Brian Koppleman and David Levien, the talented writers who gave us the very entertaining Rounders (1998) and Oceans 13 (2007). They have created a character who speaks his mind and will not hesitate to harm or manipulate others. I just wish the film lived-up to its quality beginning and ending. The middle of the film has clichés and lulls that could have been ironed-out. Nevertheless, Solitary Man is superior to two other films this year about white men going through late-life crises, Paper Man and Multiple Sarcasms.
The movie starts out very well. Dialogue is crisp and the static, medium-long shots quickly establish the film's clean aesthetic. We are immediately introduced to Ben Kalmen (Michael Douglas), a disgraced, unemployed, womanizing 60 year-old man who ruled a tri-state network of auto dealerships in the 80s and 90s. But now, he carries more pounds and no net worth (as Gordon Gekko might say). His dealerships were caught running a leasing scam that screwed both customers and the auto manufacturer. FTC fine and legal fees have washed him out. But he is no less bitter, cantankerous or cynical. Nor is he willing to grow up, a primary theme of this character study.
No sooner do we see him run away from prescribed heart tests, Ben agrees to escort his girlfriend's 18 year-old daughter, Allyson (played by British starlet Imogen Poots), to his ala mater in Massachusetts to grease her application interview and assure her acceptance. The movie treats us to two excellent scenes that should raise most viewers' expectations. First, Ben and Allyson exchange rapid-fire put downs and flirtations at the airport while other middle-aged businessmen stare at Ben in a mixture of envy and discomfort. Second, we're treated to one of the movie's best lines as Ben gets into a scuffle with a student on the quad. So far, so good. At times, the film has a beautiful mix of comedy, drama, and shamelessness that most guys (myself included) should like.
But the middle of the movie goes soft, it seems. Ben's life begins to tear at the seams, which is well established and directed. But the plot has him going back to his old campus with his tail between his legs. That would be fine if he was going to work for the university (he was a major donor when his businesses were at their peak). But the film chooses the uncomfortable comedy route of the dirty old man on campus. as Ben reconnects with his wiser sage (a refreshingly calm Danny DeVito), takes a job at his diner, and ends up embarrassing himself at more than one kegger. While I agree that the plot required him to go into exile out of New York City, I was a little disappointed to see his ex-wife (Susan Sarandon) disappear for a long stretch in the film, while his daughter (jenna Fischer) gets a boost of screen time in a contrived and somewhat false subplot. Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland) makes a few appearances as a sophomore hoping to make Ben his mentor. We see time and again how Ben is a poor role model, and often his own worst enemy. But what could have been a satisfying on-campus subplot seemed to be where the movie ground to a halt, and ended up being as awkward and aloof as Eisenberg's character.
After some thought, I think I know why this film didn't work for me. I don't think Ben's back story was effectively presented. Quite often, he is told (and therefore we are informed) of his past actions by his daughter and ex-wife. We are introduced to Ben well after his late-life crisis has begun. I wonder if the film would have been better served by a prologue scene, or an earlier staring point (with the frat parties cut out towards the end). When Ben speaks to others, the film works. When others describe Ben's past to him (with the notable exceptions of Sarandon and DeVito) the film seems to suffer.
Artists are free to make decisions, of course. But I was a little surprised to learn that Levien stepped-aside and let Koppleman do most of the writing. They had toyed with this story for years. But I wonder if they had reviewed the script enough. They are clearly talented, experienced writers who know how to speed-up stories through the middle act (does anyone remember the blazingly-fast set-up in Oceans Thirteen?). But with Solitary Man, they set out to make a small independent film their way, at their pace. That, plus the non-Hollywood ending deserves a lot of credit. But perhaps such a strong performance by Douglas deserved a firmer and less clichéd second act. His character needed time in exile to build a respectable comeback. But instead he spent most of his time with characters and subplots that diminished his presence and the audience's enjoyment of the film. Having an unlikable character complete a personal journey is no easy task (see Mike Leigh's Naked (1993) to appreciate it done wonderfully). But I fear that Koppleman and Levien set a high bar that they could not reach half of the time in this film.
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