In contrast to the emotional inertia of the character he plays, a former big-wheel car dealer gunning toward self-destruction as he nears 60, Michael Douglas surges ahead in Solitary Man with the best work he’s done in the decade since Wonder Boys. Douglas portrays Ben Kalmen, a New York player gone to seed and divorced from a good, mature woman (Susan Sarandon, equally revitalized). He’s squandering the love of his adult daughter (Jenna Fischer, superb). And he’s compulsively chasing inappropriate women — some as young as the college-age daughter (Imogen Poots) of his girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker).
With an outstanding screenplay by Brian Koppelman and disciplined direction by Koppelman and David Levien, a story that could have been generic (or worse, scented with flowery bulls—) turns into a precise, honest, and affecting drama. And recognizing the gift of such a character, Douglas does Ben Kalmen the honor of playing him exactly as he lies. A-