Saturday, December 10, 2011

REVIEW: Solitary Man (2009)

WARNING: SPOILERS

Why do we make mistakes? Why are we drawn to keep doing horrible things even though we know they will ruin us anyway? This movie tries to answer those questions and I think it did a really good job at that. Starring Michael Douglas, Solitary Man is a drama that really works and makes you think. Let’s take a look.

Director: Brian Koppelman
Starring: Michael Douglass, Mary Louise Parker, Sarah Sarandon

The film actually starts off as kind of a typical comedic drama with Douglas having to take his girlfriend’s daughter to her new college, as his girlfriend has come down with the flu. As it turns out, Douglas actually knows the school and has friends there – as well as trying to get in good with the higher-ups for his car dealership business. He starts talking to a kid played by Jesse Eisenberg, and shows him around, giving him tips on how to get girls. At this point the movie looks like it’s going to be your typical comedy about trying to pick up chicks, but that all radically changes when Douglas ends up sleeping with his girlfriend’s daughter.

Yes, he sleeps with a girl who must be a third of his age…this is really where you start to see what kind of a movie Solitary Man is. Douglas’s character is a smarmy, slick old devil who talks like a motivational self-help speaker. “What does he really do for you?” he asks his girlfriend’s daughter, talking about the guy she’s been hanging with. He advises her to look into the future and see where the relationship, and her sex life, will go with the guy. And then they end up ravaging each other shortly after.

This doesn’t faze Douglas at all as he just keeps on doing what he does, sleeping with women and digging himself deeper and deeper as he alienates himself from his family, ruins his professional reputation and ends up having to take a job at a little diner. The whole is a masterfully constructed chronicle of a man’s downfall. And he’s enjoying every second of it. He takes it in stride. You’re not supposed to look up to this man, you’re supposed to feel sorry for him, because beyond the bravado and the arrogance there’s a man who just doesn’t know what else to do.

Really the culmination of the whole film is at the end when he finally explains to his ex-wife why he’s been doing all of this stuff in the first place – because no one stopped him. He just kept going and going. There’s a lot to be said here about the things people do and their underlying reasons. This is a very sprawling, dramatic film about a lot of things, wrapped up rather idiosyncratically with brilliant dialogue and a downward spiral of events. It's about a man who thinks he knows what he's talking about in the realm of human relationships but really is the only lonely one out of the whole cast - everyone else has settled down, and for the better. This is not your typical film, but it is compulsively watchable and will teach you a few things, perhaps about yourself or perhaps about others. Fascinating and idiosyncratic. See it.