Solitary Man

June 2nd, 2010


Solitary Man

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Still of Brian Koppelman in Solitary ManStill of Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito in Solitary ManElizabeth Gillies at event of Solitary ManStill of Michael Douglas and Susan Sarandon in Solitary ManStill of Danny DeVito in Solitary ManStill of Jenna Fischer in Solitary Man

A car magnate watches his personal and professional life hit the skids because of his business and romantic indiscretions.

Release Year: 2009

Rating: 6.5/10 (7,569 voted)

Critic's Score: 69/100

Director: Brian Koppelman

Stars: Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Jesse Eisenberg

Ben Kalman is aging: he has heart problems, his marriage is over, he's lost a fortune after being caught cutting corners in his East Coast car business, and he's sleeping with as many women as possible - the younger the better. He's chosen his current girlfriend, Jordan, because her father can help him get a new auto dealership; she's asked him to escort her daughter, Allyson, 18, on a visit to a Boston college campus. He behaves badly, and there are consequences to his love life, his finances, and his relationship with his daughter and grandson. Is there anywhere he can turn?

Michael Douglas - Ben Kalmen
Susan Sarandon - Nancy Kalmen
Danny DeVito - Jimmy Merino
Mary-Louise Parker - Jordon Karsch
Jenna Fischer - Susan Porter
Imogen Poots - Allyson Karsch
Jesse Eisenberg - Daniel Cheston
Richard Schiff - Steve Heller
Jake Richard Siciliano - Scotty (as Jake Siciliano)
David Costabile - Gary Porter
Ben Shenkman - Peter Hartofilias
Anastasia Griffith - Carol Salomonde
Alex Kaluzhsky - Ted Loof
Simone Levin - Nurse (as Simona Levin Williams)
James Colby - Sgt. John Haverford

Taglines: Ben loves his family almost as much as he loves himself


Official Website: Official site | Official site [Japan] |

Release Date: 2 June 2010

Filming Locations: City Island, Bronx, New York City, New York, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $94,936 (USA) (23 May 2010) (4 Screens)

Gross: $4,360,548 (USA) (4 October 2010)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

This film shares its title with a Neil Diamond song sung by Johnny Cash at the beginning of the film. Johnny Cash was known as "the man in black" due to his propensity for wearing all black. Michael Douglas' character spends most of the film wearing black clothing and only occasionally wears anything except black.

Jimmy Merino: When my father gave me this place years ago, I used to dream about these girls. Every night, dreams, all kinds of dreams about 'em. But then I'd see them coming back after graduation. They'd come to homecomings, ballgames. They'd sit at the same tables, eat the same food. And I'd look at them and I noticed, they don't stay like this. None of 'em. They put on years and pounds and wrinkles. And I got one like that at home. So. And we can talk to each other. I know her and I'll always know her.

User Review

A man out of options, who refuses to notice

Rating: 8/10

This Hollywood movie might have worked better as a rough-hewn indie picture with more particularized locations and more unexpected faces, but it has two big things to recommend it: the writing, and a wonderful performance by Michael Douglas as the titular loner, a fallen used car magnate, a seducer of young women and a man near sixty who's run out of options. Douglas wears this charming sleazebag's skin with breathtaking ease. The settings don't really matter too much (they're pretty generic), and the excellent cast, which includes Susan Sarandon, Sarah Louise Parker, Danny De Vito, and Jesse Eisenberg, is a little too familiar. But none of that matters because Douglas is so good. The noirish aspects of the story creep up on you very gradually, and you go from not caring about the protagonist to caring just when you know you should have long given up on him. This is the writing and Douglas's performance working together to create a man who is reprehensible in interesting and perhaps universal ways.

Ben Kalmen is a wise guy who needs to learn a lesson. You would think he had already learned a big one. He was a car dealer in the Tri-State area so successful he was once on the cover of Forbes Magazine. Then he ran a scam against the car companies, taking profits from cars he hadn't sold. He was arrested, he squandered a fortune defending himself, he paid a huge fine and all but went to jail. He is disgraced. All of his powerful friends have abandoned him. He is also broke and divorced. Six years ago as we see in a preview sequence, his doctor found heart irregularities that might be dangerous and wanted to have tests run. Ben ran from that instead -- to bars where he began picking up and bedding young women in an effort to cheat time and mother nature. This is a game that has worn thin, but he isn't prepared to give it up.

When the action begins he's pushed by his very wealthy girlfriend Jordan (Parker) to take her daughter Allyson (Imogen Poots) up to his alma mater for an admissions interview. He has given a lot of money to the school in the past and still has influence with the dean. He doesn't want to go, but he goes. Allyson doesn't want him to come, but he comes. There's mention of her having had a drinking problem. She puts on a great pose of sophistication and independence. And then over the weekend he gets her drunk and seduces her. He also makes friends with a sophomore, Daniel Cheston, whom he calls Cheston (Eisenberg). With both young people Ben indulges a penchant for playing the worldly-wise sex adviser. He tells Allyson how to get her young men to satisfy her sexually (that's how he begins his seduction) and he tells Cheston how to get a girl. Later he betrays Cheston's trust.

Once Ben sleeps with Alllyson on that trip, bad things happen, very bad things. His attempt to overcome doubts in high places and start a new car dealership is gradually shot down. He can't even get a job as a car salesman. He is behind in his rent; he borrows money from his serious daughter Susan (Jenna Fischer). He runs out of money and goes to his old college friend Jimmy (De Vito) for help. The wrath of his girlfriend Jordan turns out to be very dangerous.

Douglas' role as Ben Kalman touches on aspects of his Gordon Gecko of Wall Street and Grady Tripp of Wonder Boys, which is to say he is well cast, not that this is a repetition of those roles or performances. Ben is as lacking in a sense of human values as Gecko, and his life is in as much disarray as Tripp's. Some find Ben much more shocking than either. So much the better. Douglas takes on this role fearlessly and it leads him along familiar trajectories into a new place. Ben is a human being. He is a man more adept at the material than the moral who's dealing with his fears the best way he can. He is short on wisdom but not on bravery. His grandson adores him. Like the dad in the indie surprise flick Daddy Longlegs, he is the dangerous, unreliable adult who is magical and fun. He is the man young adults may need along the way for inspiration and then must discard when they realize some essential parts of the picture, the consistent set of values, was lacking.

Douglas' thrusting intonations here become the embodiment of the (once) successful car salesman. Ben is selling a materialist and sensualist's program for defying time. Perhaps not enough time goes in the film to establishing Ben's former good side. It's a little hard to understand how his ex-wife Nancy (Sarandon) can remain so understanding, not to mention his daughter Susan's rallying when she has once given up on him. De Vito's still-loyal old friend is an idealized and simplistic figure. And yes, it would be better if Douglas, too, were not so familiar to us. But the movie still succeeds in concocting a man and a situation that have much that are fresh about them. Ben is a wonderfully complex creation, charismatic and charming and sexy and yet very clearly also a jerk. And in playing him, Michael Douglas shows himself once again to be a very good and very brave actor, for more so than people tend to realize. Koppelman and Leviean have written for Steven Soderbergh, who co-produced; Leviean was the writer here, and his collaborating on the directing seems to have worked well for the coherence of this well-made film.


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