Directed, Brian Koppleman and David Levien
Written, Brian Koppleman
Starring, Michael Douglas, Jesse Eisenberg, Susan Sarandon, Danny Devito, Jenna Fischer, Imogen Poots
Running time 90 minutes
Released in June 2010

Michael Douglas, a conventional Hollywood actor on the surface, has made a career from playing morally ambiguous or deeply flawed characters. His most successful characters: Gordon Geckko (WALL STREET), Dr. Grady Tripp (WONDER BOYS), Oliver Rose (THE WAR OF THE ROSES), Dan Gallagher (FATAL ATTRACTION) and Nick Curran (BASIC INSTINCT) are usually not likable fellows, but they are real men. And Douglas can usually find some humanity in them. Ben Kalman in SOLITARY MAN, is of a similar ilk and one of Douglas’ most effective roles to date.

PLOT: Ken Kalman was a successful car dealer, father, and husband until something derailed him. Half-a-decade after his implosion, he’s lost pretty much everything except his desire to reclaim the life that once was his. He embarrasses himself repeatedly by hitting on inappropriately young women, by letting his daughter and grandson down, by failing everyone in his life. His failures seem more self-punishment than fully realized sins though, so you stick with him. SOLITARY MAN explores serial seduction most effectively, but it’s smart enough to find the man beneath, to make us root for his salvation.

My favorite Douglas film is WONDER BOYS and this is almost an extension of the themes and characters found there. Once again, there’s the younger protégé who mistakenly thinks Douglas has something to teach him. Ben also shares with Professor Grady Tripp a troubling relationship with women, experiences the same frustrations and failure on entering late middle age, the same angst about how he’s going to get through the last third of life. SOLITARY MAN is a solid entry in the Douglas canon.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.