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MOVIE REVIEW: Solitary Man

Presenting: The Mid-Life Crisis Experience

Solitary Man rates a C-.
Courtesy photo

The guys that brought us the disappointing The Girlfriend Experience, now give us The Mid-Life Crisis Experience.

Michael Douglas is joined by someone he’s co-starred with a lot – Danny DeVito. Their scenes together are pleasant, and I didn’t think about any of their old films. When Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland) shows up, and Douglas lectures the shy college student on how to get women – I immediately thought of the character he played in Roger Dodger. Campbell Scott plays the older sleaze spouting off the seduction advice (strange that that movie came out eight years ago, and Eisenberg looks the exact same age).

Jenna Fischer of The Office fame, is always wonderful on screen. But much like her Office love-interest John Krasinski, they both keep showing up in bad films (he was one of the few things I liked in It’sComplicated).

The cast (perhaps the best for a film all year) is rounded off nicely by Mary-Louise Parker, Susan Sarandon, and Imogen Poots (the prettiest actress with the ugliest name).

The music is perfect from the always reliable Michael Penn (Sean’s film-scoring brother), and we don’t even have to hear Neil Diamond. It’s Johnny Cash’s version of Solitary Man that starts the film.

The day I saw a press screening of this film, I happened to catch a woman on TV complaining about this movie and how it was, “Another one of those films where a 65-year-old guy gets the young women. How unrealistic is that?”

I shouted at the TV, “It seems realistic to me! His current wife is the 40-year-old Catherine Zeta-Jones!”

Douglas is starting to look more like his dad in the age department, though.

In this film, he plays a car dealership mogul who got caught up in scandal, and is almost on the verge of putting his financial life back in order. He also has a bad heart (literally and figuratively), and his sex addiction is ruining business opportunities and family relationships.

Anyone else remember Michael Douglas being one of the first actors to claim a sex addiction? It was after his first wife caught him cheating countless times. Interesting that he’d still take this role, but hey…he plays a weasel better than anyone (and we’ll see it again soon with the Wall Street sequel).

The script is a bit shallow and filmed with some clichés. You have a hard time believing some of the things happening (like Douglas bragging about his sexual exploits with his daughter, who is clearly getting tired of hearing about it); but the film is never boring.

There are some scenes that have nice touches I haven’t seen on screen before. For example, when a thug beats up Douglas, he doesn’t coolly and casually walk back to his limo. He looks around quickly to see if there were any witnesses, and even fumbles a bit for the car door handle.

Yet, when we see Eisenberg with his new girlfriend later in the movie, they have a cute inside joke where they say certain words in Spanish. That’s a scene that could’ve been clever, but was written sloppy.

There’s another scene where Douglas speaks rudely to a woman he just seduced. Not only do I find that to be awkward and not true to his character – I’ve seen too many scenes like that recently (done a lot better in Please Give, and even with Douglas and Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction).

All those women that loved Sex and the City…well hell, all women, are going to hate this movie. Here’s an example of why: the nicest character is DeVito, as a childhood friend who really takes care of Douglas in his darkest hour. Yet even he says, when asked how he doesn’t get tempted by the college girls that come into his deli, “I see them when they come back here years later. They sit in the same places, eat the same food. They’ve got wrinkles and added a few pounds. I’ve got that at home.” Nice.

It’s a shame, because there are other scenes, like a conversation with Eisenberg that’s one of the sweetest and most well-written apology scenes I’ve seen in a film. Why couldn’t there be more scenes like that, and less hackneyed scenes of Douglas telling his grandson “not to call him grandpa” when a young blonde is nearby, or when his ex-wife asks what he wants (their marriage back, or to keep chasing young women), just as a college co-ed walks by and he stares at her, as he stands up off the park bench they met at when they were college sweethearts. Is that supposed to be profound? Because it just seemed utterly ridiculous to me.

The movie gets a C- from me, on the strength of the cast alone. Ask me tomorrow, and it might be a D.