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Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg
Writing Credits:
Brian Koppelman

Ben loves his family almost as much as he loves himself.

Ben (Michael Douglas) once ruled a car-dealership empire vast enough to fuel a glossy Manhattan lifestyle and endow a library at an East Coast university. But by the time he arrives at the college with his girlfriend’s daughter, Allyson (Imogen Poots), who is a prospective student, his world has collapsed around his ears. A business scandal has cost him his income and his marriage to Nancy (Susan Sarandon). His ever-present lust for every passing attractive woman threatens to take what little Ben has left. Even his new relationship with Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker) oscillates with tension. When Ben takes Allyson to tour the school, his motives are more than mixed.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$94.936 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$4.339 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English PCM 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 9/7/2010

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Brian Koppelman, Director David Levien, and Actor Douglas McGrath
• “Solitary Man: Alone in a Crowd” Featurette
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Solitary Man [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 14, 2010)

Michael Douglas stars in a character study via 2009’s Solitary Man. After a health scare, successful car dealer Ben Kalmen (Douglas) goes through a prolonged midlife crisis and essentially turns super-hedonist.

This means he divorces his wife Nancy (Susan Sarandon), dates much younger Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker) and still nails any even younger babe he can find. This leads him on a downward spiral during which he alienates his family and loses his business due to shady financial dealings.

All of that occurs during the almost seven years between the scene at the doctor’s office and the “present day” opening. When we meet Ben, he wants to get back into the car dealership game, and he works to achieve that goal. Otherwise, he continues his superficial ways – until matters start to turn against him.

When Solitary works, it does so due to its cast. Douglas seems perfectly cast as Ben. Not a whole lot of 60-year-olds still boast the charm and charisma to play the part, but Douglas continues to deliver those qualities and more. At no point do we doubt his ability to bed various young hotties; even when he sets his sights on college girls, we accept it. Granted, some of this may occur because we believe Michael Douglas, Movie Star could get anyone he wants, but that doesn’t explain all – or most – of it. Instead, it’s simply the spark with which Douglas plays Ben that allows his exploits to feel real.

The high quality of the supporting cast certainly gives the film a boost as well. Even though none of the other roles ever develops beyond the level of 1.5-dimensional, we buy into them easily because the talents who play them add life. Solitary almost throws away stars like Sarandon, Parker, and Danny DeVito, as it gives them little to do. However, the simple fact they’re on screen adds perceived depth; we buy into the characters more readily because of our connection to the actors, so the small parts feel more real.

Unfortunately, the cast can’t overcome all of the film’s issues, and Ben remains the primary flaw. For one, his willingness to nuke his life over a perceived chink in his mortality makes zero sense. When I mentioned Ben’s health scare, that may have implied a firm diagnosis of some frightful condition. Nope – instead, Ben goes on a seven-year bender because he might have something wrong with him. His doctor alludes to a slightly irregular heart test, but Ben fails to follow up on this, so he never finds out if any real problem exists.

Perhaps one shouldn’t question the motives of a man in full midlife crisis, but question I will! I just think this become an awfully flimsy pretext on which to base the character’s radical shift. One day Ben is a good family man who runs his business with utmost honestly, and then he suddenly turns into a pathological womanizer who loses all work ethics?

I don’t buy it, and the fact the movie depicts Ben as a relentlessly shallow, unlikable character doesn’t help. Oh, it occasionally shows Introspective Ben, the guy who looks kinda mopey when he wakes up alone. The movie also sends him on a Job-like journey during which his life gets crummier and crummier.

And we just don’t care. Perhaps the movie intends to send a moral lesson that one reaps what one sows, but it doesn’t work. Ben never develops as a character beyond his superficial nature. Yeah, he comes to regret his actions, but that seems to be more because he loses his mojo than anything else. Does Ben even appear to care how he’s hurt his family and friends? Nope – I get the feeling that if he could still nail all the 19-year-olds he wanted and light cigars with $100 bills, he’d not change at all.

Which leaves the movie without much of a moral center or an obvious purpose. Granted, it remains wholly watchable from start to finish, largely due to the talents of its excellent cast. However, they’re left with more of the heavy lifting than I’d like, as they’re forced to compensate for the script’s problems. That makes Solitary only a fitful success.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

Solitary Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a good but unexceptional transfer.

For the most part, sharpness looked fine. Mild softness occasionally interfered with the image, especially in wider shots. Still, the majority of the film provided positive delineation, so I didn’t have major complaints. No signs of jaggies or shimmering occurred, but I did notice mild edge haloes. Source flaws were absent, as I noticed no specks, marks or other issues.

The movie went with a somewhat chilly palette that seemed good. Not a lot of vivid hues appeared, but when they did, they were full, and the other tones looked appropriate within the movie’s design. Blacks appeared dark and dense, while shadows were decent; a party scene was a bit too thick, but most of these shots appeared fine. Overall, I liked the image but didn’t think it merited a mark above a “B”.

Expect a thoroughly ordinary PCM 5.1 soundtrack. Very little occurred to expand the soundfield. A few scenes – parties, rainstorms – broadened the spectrum in a modest manner, but they added little to the package. The low-key score showed decent stereo presence, and the effects contributed mild ambience, but that was about it. This was a consistently subdued piece.

Audio quality was fine, at least. Speech always appeared concise and natural, so the lines seemed solid. Although music remained quiet and restrained, the score showed appropriate range and reproduction. Effects also played a small role but came across with reasonable accuracy. Though it lacked the power to earn an above-average grade, the soundtrack seemed fine for a movie of this sort.

In terms of extras, we launch with an audio commentary from writer/director Brian Koppelman, director David Levien, and actor Douglas McGrath. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, sound choices and music, sets and locations, story/character topics, editing, and a few other production areas.

From start to finish, the three participants provide an excellent look at the film. They delve into various issues with gusto and manage to give us a strong overview. With an emphasis on the actors and creative areas, the track entertains and informs.

Solitary Man: Alone in a Crowd lasts 11 minutes, 46 seconds and features notes from Levien, Koppelman, and actors Michael Douglas, Jenna Fischer, Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, and Danny DeVito. The program looks at cast, characters and performances. Really, the featurette simply acts as a promotional excuse to explain the story and roles. It doesn’t tell us anything valuable.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for City Island and After.Life. In addition, we find these under “Also on Blu-ray” with a promo for Abandoned. We also get the movie’s trailer.

With Solitary Man, we find an occasionally engaging “midlife crisis” story that succeeds solely due to the work of its actors. In particular, Michael Douglas delivers a charismatic and engaging lead performance. Unfortunately, the script and story let down Douglas and his costars, as not much other than the actors manages to work. The Blu-ray provides good picture, acceptable audio and supplements highlighted by an excellent commentary. I can recommend Solitary Man for fans of the actors, as they deliver nice work, but the overall package disappoints.

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