Dallas IFF '10 – Solitary Man Review


Mirrors what could be Michael Douglas’s life, if his film characters were real.

Even though Michael Douglas has been absent from the leading roles in recent years, he is still considered a Hollywood icon. Not only does he come from one of acting’s royal families, but he’s played so many iconic roles over the years from Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, Jack Colton in Romancing The Stone, Oliver Rose in War of the Roses, and President Andrew Shepherd in The American President. His personal life even became a Hollywood romance when he wed one of the most beautiful women in the world, Catherine Zeta Jones. In Solitary Man, he returns in a leading role that seems to be a perfect one for him in this stage of his life.

Douglas stars as Ben Kelman, a divorced man who once enjoyed success as the owner of several car dealerships in the northeast. His name has been dragged through the dirt as a result of one bad business decision after another, and he’s trying to regain the success that he once knew. His pampered new girlfriend Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker) has a daughter who is looking at attending his alma mater, and Jordan asks him to be her guide for a weekend trip. Ben reluctantly accepts, but has a good time while helping an awkward college student (Jesse Eisenberg) and also romancing Jordan’s daughter Allyson (Imogen Poots).

The screening that I attended at the Dallas International Film Festival was also attended by directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien, and a comparison was made between this film and The Wrestler. The Wrestler was more poignant because of the decision to cast Mickey Rourke as the main character, because the film mirrored his personal life. Solitary Man also mirrors what could be Michael Douglas’s life, if his film characters were real. Gordon Gekko’s greed, combined with Jack Colton’s womanizing, and Oliver Rose’s failed marriage all make up his character Ben Kelman. The role comes at the perfect time in Michael Douglas’s career and this could be the film to give it the jumpstart that he deserves.

However before the comparison was made to The Wrestler, I was almost set on giving this film a negative review. Ben Kelman is a wholly unlikeable character and even in the end is unredeemed. But this is probably a good thing. Audiences can take his experiences and reflect on them, hopefully choosing to make different decisions than Ben does. Solitary Man isn’t a Michael Douglas crowd-pleaser and will likely not be a box office success when it is theatrically released at the end of May. But fans of Douglas’s career, and fans of the remarkable supporting cast will not be disappointed.

Director: Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Notable Cast: Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Mary-Louise Parker, Jesse Eisenberg
Writer(s): Brian Koppelman

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