Michael Douglas has always excelled at playing arrogant — think Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. He also could play arrogant on a downward spiral, as he did in Wonder Boys.
In Solitary Man, he plays Ben Kalmen, once known as "New York's honest car dealer," who has had a fall. The reality is that he cheats on everybody. His marriage is over, and his ex-wife (Susan Sarandon) watches in disdain as he chases other women. His daughter is saddened by what her father has become. He even two-times his mistress, Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker). Worse, he promises to help Jordan's daughter (Imogen Poots) get into his alma mater. Yet when he accompanies her to the school, well, you guessed it. Then he helps a lovesick college student (Jesse Eisenberg), only to use him.
Like many a car salesman, Douglas' Ben works hard to make you like him, but there is desperation growing in his eyes as he is trying to close the deal. The scenes with Danny DeVito as Ben's longtime friend who knew the man before he became "honest" are among the most telling.
Solitary Man, from Brian Koppelman and David Levien, suffers a bit because it's so Ben-centric. More perspective from the other characters would have helped the drama. But it's Douglas' movie, and he does a great selling job. It's one of his finest performances, and the Oscar-winning actor, who has throat cancer, has given us many. We wish him well.
Solitary Man retails for $29.98 or $34.99 on Blu-ray.