Solitary Man - DVD Review

'difficult to see how such bankable assets came to be occupying the DVD shelf prematurely'

Solitary Man limped out and onto the direct-to-DVD market in the UK at the end of last month, having hung around in cinemas in the US for just long enough to make back only a third of its production budget. It's a sad state of affairs for a film which features Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Jesse Eisenberg and Danny DeVito in a 'proper' dramatic tale of a down-and-out car salesman (Douglas) whose depravity with women and money has led him to the brink of personal and social collapse.

It's difficult to see how such bankable assets came to be occupying the DVD shelf prematurely, even if the film is rife with problems and hardly delivers on the substantial fare that the premise suggests. The script sees Douglas' Ben Kalman bed-hopping around following a medical revelation and an off-screen separation from wife Nancy (Sarandon). In essence, the ingredients are there for this to work but Brian Koppelman's script, co-directed with David Levien, needed to be much tighter. The cover of the DVD, for example, features Douglas and Eisenberg (no doubt seeking to ride on the latters inflated status post The Social Network) but in truth, Douglas' encounters with any of the supporting cast are minor elements which feel tacked on to his own story and that of his daughter (Jenna Fischer).

What this leads to, especially in a film which only runs to ninety minutes, is a feeling that neither we, the audience, nor Douglas really interact with many of the characters properly. Eisenberg must share about three scenes with the lead man, the focus having been shifted to him from Imogen Poots' character early on who similarly, hung around for barely long enough for us or Douglas to get to know her.

The thing that saves Solitary Man are the scenes between Douglas and Fischer, the latter giving as good as she gets from the veteran performer who, unsurprisingly, hardly puts a foot wrong in a role that doesn't really test him. Unlike the other turns, Fischer's character feels both real and as though she has a real relationship with Ben and their dynamic kept me interested in the drama. The final shot too shows a rare moment of brilliance from Koppelman and Levien and although, like a lot of Solitary Man, it feels like it has come from a different film, it does work and leaves a warm-hearted glow towards a well-intentioned but under-performing star vehicle.

Look further...

'Not once does it let up and try and turn itself into a happy fluffy piece of has a dark look on the matter and remains dark for an hour and a half' - Cinematic Paradox, 6/10


  1. Gotta say, none of these people are real draws anymore. Has Sarandon played a different role in years? Her strung out, Bohemian-ness is getting old and looking even older as she ages but doesn't change clothes.

    This, of course, is more a comment on the actors than the movie, but I won't see this one. :(


  2. I'll watch Michael Douglas in anything but I have found myself feeling a similar way to Sarandon before now. Part of that though is down to the fact that there really aren't that many great roles out there for 40-60 year old women in Hollywood: a cliche, but a cliche that I happen to believe.