Thursday, July 29, 2010

Solitary Man

Tonight I saw Solitary Man, starring Michael Douglas and Jenna Fischer.

Car salesman are seldom liked and rarely respected, but you get the sense that before his dealership began running scams, Ben Kalmen (Douglas) may have been both. And when you're used to everyone adoring you and your world falls apart, it's hard to dissolve the natural arrogance that comes with the former privilege.

Susan (Fischer), Ben's adult daughter, just wishes he'd act his age. Instead of chasing skirts 30 years younger, she'd like for him to rebuild his life with a new job and a reasonable stability. His ex-wife Nancy (played by a cleavage-bearing Susan Sarandon) is apparently still fond of him, and his current girlfriend Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker) chooses to look the other way as he cheats his way around their relationship.

All hell breaks loose when Ben takes Jordan's daughter Allyson (Imogen Poots) to a college interview out of town and sleeps with a barely legal girl. The consequences don't dent his conscience, but they do wreak havoc on his finances, his reputation and his ability to start a new car dealership.

Faced with eviction and homelessness, Ben turns to his daughter for help until he also betrays her and she's forced to cut him off. He has also received word that he may have heart trouble, but instead of getting the necessary tests to find out either way, he puts himself on a steady diet of baby aspirin and alcohol.

The entire film is a character study of a man choosing to live his life the way he pleases, regardless of the consequences. It's not that he doesn't love his family, or respect the natural 'order' life is meant to impose; he just feels his charm will overcome any situation too difficult to bear, and when that doesn't work, he just moves on.

Michael Douglas plays Ben superbly without an ounce of self-loathing, complete with slimy appeal. You really believe he would easily talk these young women into his bed because despite his flaws, he's sexy and smooth.

Supporting characters are also perfectly cast—Sarandon as the wistful, yet independent divorcĂ©e, Danny Devito as a long-lost friend and Jenna Fischer, an innocent, wounded daughter.

The ensemble is strong, the writing (which could've easily been one-note) is sharp without being too precious, and the direction is organic enough to make you feel as if you're in New York and Boston alongside the characters.

I have no idea why this interesting indie with an all-star cast isn't getting more attention.


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