Solitary Man (10/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 90 minutes
Not for children
Ben Kalmen (Michael
Douglas) is a charming man, so he thinks he can get away with anything.
Kalmen is a giant in his world, a man with a personality so overwhelming
one can’t help but admire him superficially. But underneath all the
bluster is a weak man who can’t say no to his impulses when his charm
gives him vast opportunities to take advantage of people, mostly young
women. Kalmen is a man devoid of morality, who, even though he does the
wrong thing time and again, still comes back, seemingly undaunted, for
Douglas captures this movie
about how charm and charisma can lead a man down the primrose path, and
makes it his own. But Douglas’ performance should not take anything away
from this terrific cast. The script by Brian Koppelman (who also
directed with David Levien) is brilliant. Despite Ben’s charm, he has
forsaken a happy marriage to Nancy (Susan Sarandon), alienates a devoted
Upper East Side lover, Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker), uses her daughter,
Allyson Karasch (nineteen-year-old Imogen Poots), and his daughter,
Susan (Jenna Fischer), and a young friend he advises, Daniel Cheston
(Jesse Eisenberg), and his oldest friend, Jimmy (Danny DeVito).
Koppelman and Levien based
Kalmen on the “kings of New York” they observed growing up. Says
Koppelman, “We had spent years talking about men like Ben; men with
enormous assets, not just financially, but of personality and intellect
too; charming, powerful men who, for some reason, betray their gifts and
lose their way.” Who better to portray this type of personality than the
man who portrayed Gordon Gekko?
Standing out among the
wonderful performances of Douglas and his cast, Olivia Thrilby, in an
uncredited role, gives a scintillating performance in her short role as
Daniel’s girlfriend near the end of the film. In an all-too-brief
appearance, she nails it. For my money, her role is one of the more
essential in the film, showing Ben for the character he really is.
Without giving anything
away, it ends the way I would have ended it. As Monroe Starr would say
in “The Last Tycoon” (1976), that’s the movies.