Tuesday, 3 August 2010


Roadshow Entertainment
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

Solitary Man is an apt title for this film for it's all about one man and one performance. Ben Kalmen is a 60-year-old man with a shady past as a car salesman who fudged his records, but whose real crime was, when given news of a heart condition, abandoned his wife (Susan Sarandon) and daughter in pursuit of a hedonistic lifestyle. That meant mostly skirt, the younger the better. And there is probably no better choice for such a role than Michael Douglas.

In a vanity free performance, Douglas, resembling more his father, Kirk, with every passing year, wears Kalmen as comfortably as a suit. While eager to reclaim his position as the caryard king, Kalmen proves his own worst enemy by constantly letting down those who trust him and, in the case of current girlfriend, Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker), would financially back him. He blows that deal, and relationship, by shitting wear he eats, so to speak, and it's just the beginning of his downward spiral.

Douglas hasn't had a role this juicy or substantial since his wonderful turn in 2000's Wonder Boys, where he played a college professor struggling with writer's block and all manner of personal complications. That character was far more rumpled than Douglas gets to play here but despite the suits and air of confidence Kalmen projects, the cracks are much deeper and the pain far more real. And Douglas relishes every moment.

Unfortunately, that means his co-stars, which include Jesse Eisenberg and Danny DeVito, as well as Sarandon and Parker, aren't given as much to do although DeVito, as an old college buddy still in awe of his friend, and Sarandon, as the long suffering but not bitter ex-wife, are note perfect.

Douglas is garnering early Oscar buzz for his performance here but despite the warm reception by US critics, the little seen film (it arrives in Australia direct to DVD) will perhaps lack the profile to see a nomination eventuate. More prolific will be his reprisal of the Gordon Gekko role in next month's Wall Street sequel, Money Never Sleeps. Gekko earned Douglas his only acting Oscar and if that sequel allows him to plumb similar depths to those in Solitary Man, he could well be up for another.

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