REVIEW: Solitary Man

9 12 2010

Michael Douglas, like most skilled actors, can deliver good performances in his sleep, but these types of actors are only exciting to watch when they try something different or really put in the work to elevate their performance.  In “Solitary Man,” it seemed to me like Douglas was sleepwalking through the entire movie.

It’s really a shame because this could have been a great role for him.  Fascinating performances often arise when actors take parts that reflect where they are in life, particularly at milestone ages.  From child to teen, from youth to adulthood, from young to middle-aged, and for Douglas, from middle-aged to the age of mortality.  The theme of confronting old age is particularly eerie to watch now given Douglas’ fight with cancer.

Yet while all the components are there, something just doesn’t add up.  I wouldn’t attribute it all to Douglas; the film’s plot is pretty weak and the self-examination severely underdeveloped.  This is such a rich topic, but the movie only brushes the surface.  Douglas’ Ben Kalmen struggles with a lot of things: his loneliness, his infidelity, his fall from grace in business, his desire to stay young, among others.

The psychological struggle is all provided by Douglas, not at all by the script.  Nowhere is there a great line for us to chew on or a particularly interesting plot development to leave us reeling.  There’s just predictable old plot gimmicks that run for 90 minutes, which hardly feels adequate for Douglas to give the character much depth.

He gets no help from an impressively cast ensemble including the likes of Susan Sarandon, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, and Mary-Louise Parker.  The writers don’t bother to give any sort of depth to these supporting actors; they might as well have just abandoned names altogether and called the characters “aging ex-wife,” “young new girlfriend,” and “beautiful daughter.”  There’s so much “Solitary Man” could have been, but not even Michael Douglas can save it from becoming an entirely forgettable snooze.  C

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4 responses

10 12 2010
JapanCinema

I felt the same, what a stellar cast yet it seemed they were just going through the motions.

10 12 2010
5plitreel

This seems more like a younger Nicholson film doesn’t it. He would’ve been perfect for this.

11 12 2010
Darren

I’m going to confess that I’ve never been overly impressed with Douglas. He’s good, but I wouldn’t consider him one of the great iconic actors. His role in Wall Street was just perfect, however, a fantastic flashpoint in the eighties, but I can’t think of another similarly fantastic performance from him – though Wonder Boys was quite entertaining.

11 12 2010
Marshall

That’s been sitting on my Netflix instant queue for quite some time, glad to know it’s worth checking out!

And I haven’t seen much Douglas work, but what I have seen is certainly good.

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