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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Solitary Man (review)

If the ongoing meltdown of an obnoxious asshole’s three-quarter-life crisis is your idea of a good time, have at it. Sixtysomething Ben Kalmen (Michael Douglas: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) takes some potentially bad news from his doctor and turns it into an excuse to trash his reputation as an honest businessman, divorce his wife (Susan Sarandon: Speed Racer), and alienate his adult daughter (Jenna Fischer: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) and her young son (Jake Richard Siciliano: The Taking of Pelham 123). Now he spends his days trying to seduce very young women — and mostly succeeding because, I dunno, everyone loves a washed-up old dude? — and hanging out with college kids (including Jesse Eisenberg: Zombieland), because the prospect of looming death has made him realize… what? That being a self-centered, bordering-on-sociopathic monster is the best way to wrap up one’s life? Douglas turns in a fantastic performance, but it’s in aid of nothing. Ben is a thoroughly unpleasant guy with no redeeming qualities and little to offer us by way of contrast — that being an asshole may turn people against you is hardly a newsflash — and directors Brian Koppelman (who wrote the script) and David Levien (they jointly also wrote Ocean’s Thirteen) don’t have anything new to reveal to us about how men face their mortality or how women appear to be driven to enable the jerks in their lives. (The female characters are embarrasingly underdrawn; through them we might have learned what made Ben lovable once, but that’s entirely missing here.) Give it a miss, and you’re not missing anything at all.

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watch at home

MPAA: rated R for language and some sexual content

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
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