Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SOLITARY MAN: Douglas and cast are creepily good in Koppelman/Levien's look at fame, money and the male libido

Juicy. That's the word for the new Michael Douglas movie, SOLITARY MAN, in which Douglas is as good as he's been in a decade (since Wonder Boys, in fact -- a movie that, with its academic setting and very smart writing, this new one may bring to mind). The performances are juicy, and so are the situations and dialog.  You'll realize early on that writers/directors Brian Koppelman (below, right) and David Levien (below, left) know exactly what they're doing and how best to do it.  Consequently, we viewers can simply relax and enjoy the nasty fun.

This is a movie about a very sleazy guy, Ben Kalmen (played by Mr. Douglas), whom, despite his being the type who is led around by his prick, you can't help but like (us men, at least; women may not have the patience or feel much identification -- although they may relish his several comeuppances).  Ben is surrounded by smart, attractive females of all ages -- ex-wife, daughter, current woman, her daughter -- and yet he consistently involves himself with the most inappropriate choices.  His business ventures, too, have gone deeply south.  From the kind of success who has a college library named after him, he's now in debt and seemingly without resour-
ces.  Can the poor schmuck straighten up and mend his ways?

Not likely.  And this is how all the fun is produced.  Douglas (above left, with Danny DeVito) is a perfect choice for the role: Ben Kalmen may be a louse, but the actor exudes infinite charm, energy and delight in the very things that drive the rest of us crazy.  I cannot think of another actor who could nail this character with quite the pizazz and joy that Douglas brings to him.  Even while we're whispering , "No... no!" to what the guy's doing, we're exulting in all the fun that he -- and the filmmakers -- are producing.

This is quite an accomplishment on the writer-directors' part.  Koppelman and Levien know how dialog sounds in the mouth of all their characters.  They don't need to overlay any showy Mamet-
esque stylings for additional effect, so they just let their characters speak, well and truly.  Here's one sample: Ben and his ex-wife (played wonderfully by the still-sexy-and-beautiful Susan Sarandon, shown above) are having a chat in her (it used to be "their") living room, and Ben remarks how everything looks the same -- and so good, too.  "I don't change things when they're still working," she tells him.  "That's your move."

The entire cast could not be bettered.  From Jenna Fischer as Ben's daughter to Mary-Louise Parker (right) as his current woman, Imogen Poots as her hot daughter, Jesse Eisenberg (below, left) as the student Ben takes a shine to, Olivia Thirlby (below, right) as the student's girl and Danny De Vito as Ben's old college chum who's still loyal -- they're all spot-on.  And the ending (I mean the film's final moment)?  Spectacularly right.

Solitary Man, from Anchor Bay Films, opens Friday, May 21, in a limited release nationwide. Click here and then click on "SHOWTIMES" in the right hand column (once Anchor Bay gets its act together and posts them) for showtimes near you.

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