Solitary Man, a/k/a/ The Michael Douglas Experience


Directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien, frequent writing partners who scripted Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, have here created The Michael Douglas Experience; whether you respond to the material depends largely on how much you enjoy the actor lazily riffing on the oily creatures of his past. After a prologue set six and a half years ago shows thriving car-dealership owner and loyal husband Ben Kalmen (Douglas) being told by his doctor that there’s an irregularity in his EKG, the film returns to the present with the damage of his mortality scare already done. Divorced from college sweetheart Susan Sarandon and his business ruined, Ben is free to continue his pathetic behavior: bedding girlfriend Mary Louise Parker’s 18-year-old daughter and asking his own daughter, Susan (Jenna Fischer, the most revelatory of the crowded, hardworking supporting cast), for rent money. Koppelman’s script contains some tart dialogue about deluded, middle-aged male vanity—”Give me a hug, so people will think we’re married,” Ben tells Susan—and the film courageously shows its reprobate hero sliding further, not redeeming himself. “The men who live like Ben Kalmen all model themselves after characters Michael has played,” Koppelman says in the press notes—and the lead is all too content not to stretch himself beyond playing a copy of a copy of a copy.