Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Solitary Man" (2010) - Movie Review

What can be a more powerful drug than the great art of manipulation? Reading a person and having that opportunity to spin them however you want is a direct energy storage for ego. Benjamin Kalmen (Michael Douglas) is the titular character of “Solitary Man” living life as he pleases when he pleases at the cost of others. He is 60 years old and does not want to be called grand dad or even dad for that matter. He is the Roger from “Roger Dodger” grown old and running out of fuel. Strange that Jesse Eisenberg comes as his short term trainee as he did in “Roger Dodger” here too.

Car salesperson are annoying helpers, most marketing people are. The best are the people who make you feel safe almost like in a relationship. They make you comfortable despite knowing the game and then you make their decision. Ben meets up with his Doctor and even in his small time gloating of his success in car sales he tries to sell the man. It is his ideology to have that transaction the way he intends it to be. The end of that scene does not go well on him as his doctor informs him that his EKG needs a more closer look at his heart. Six and half years later he is popping aspirins every morning alongside girls of varying age though only younger than his daughter, much much younger.

He has lost his empire of car dealership on an unnecessary scam and now lives off borrowing money from daughter Susan (Jenna Fischer) and trying to make that one final go at another car dealership by sleeping with women having the power to pull strings for him. That would be Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker) a single mom with a typical graduated high school daughter (Imogen Poots) ready to join the alma mater of Ben. This dealership is his last chance in gaining back to the throne but he does everything in his power to screw it up.

Ben Kalmen is a commanding man in conversations. He knows life and he knows people. He has lived by the code where he would do anything and everything he feels like to underline his presence. It does not take much for him to miss his loving grand kid Scotty’s (Jake Richard Siciliano) birthday party. Yet he is the coolest grand dad who can play video games and make the boy’s life the glorious time in his presence. That is his skill as well and the beauty is that he chooses to be irresponsible and callous towards other’s existence in spite of knowing the damages he has caused and causing.

Michael Douglas venturing in to this role sometime after “King of California” provides another kind of miserable father. He uses the charisma in this role to make the other characters fall for it but always is a wide opened jerk to his audience. Despite that we want to follow this man as he seems to dig deeper and deeper in to the abyss of hopelessness and sadness. We have seen Ben in our life where they break hope and come back for more. They are egomaniacal but enthralling when they are at their best in pleasing us. They are the people who have figured out everything about any person except their own.

Written by Brian Koppelman and he directs alongside with his regular writing partner David Levien. Ben is a great character for a film like this and you need an actor that can carry on till the end keeping his next move unpredictable. Michael Douglas is not the man I would have thought for it. It is not because he does not fit the role. In reality he is perfect but I never really saw him as a character actor with spontaneous nature in the roles he undertook despite his roaring presentation as Gordon Gekko. Yet Douglas plays his age and the character.

There are so many wonderful people in this man’s life. A loving daughter, a great grandson, a spectacular ex-wife played by Susan Sarandon and a loyal faithful friend played by Danny Devito. Look at Danny Devito whom I only recognize during the past couple of years as the disgusting Frank in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and here he plays the most respectable and amazing friend of Ben with a heart of gold. One would wonder how a terrible person like Ben have a friend like this. That is the beauty of any relationship which blossoms in the most unexpected places.

“Solitary Man” is a wonderful film and it has gone through thrills and gaps of movie releases in the past year. A film that has a central character with umpteen possibilities for redemption goes through those purposefully unnoticed and does not regret a moment of it. When he ruins his chances and does the worst thing possible of sleeping with his girl friend’s daughter, he comes to his daughter to confide after the break up. Even there he says it with so much conviction that it was worth it. It does not take much to come up with the title for this film, isn’t it?

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