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USA 2009
Directed by
Brian Koppelman / David Levien
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Solitary Man

Solitary Man (the Johnny Cash version of the Neil Diamond song features in the opening credits) is a small scale film, essentially a morality play about a middle-aged male, Ben, (Michael Douglas) growing old badly. Once a respected big-time car dealer and married man, one day he realized that life was too short to squander on bourgeois probity and started playing around, cheating on his wife (Susan Sarandon) and pulling off shonky deals. We pick up his story after his fall from grace, one which tends to be rather laboured by the script, when he is trying to make a come-back but what has now grown into a sex addiction is destroying his chances of turning his life around.

The film is very much a mainstream American version of the kind of situation explored in Steve Jacob’s vastly under-rated Disgrace (2008). It presents its story of a man struggling with the conflict between his ego and social norms in a psychologically unconvincing way as Ben spoils everything he touches with amazing imperturbability. When he eventually ends up working in the Boston diner of an old school friend (played by Danny De Vito in what is somewhat of an in-joke, De Vito being closely associated with Douglas during the high-point of the latter’s career during the '80s and early '90s) he looks as confident and self-assured as when he was king of the hill.

If the film is clearly pitched as entertainment rather than serious drama it is however smoothly made and a master of smooth, Douglas is in typically fine form as a cynical charmer. Directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien were the writers of Ocean's 13 and The Girlfriend Experience and the director of those films, Steven Soderbergh, has a producer credit here.




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