“Solitary Man” proves to be a scoundrel

Michael Douglas shines again in a back-to-campus adventure

| Jul 12, 2010

Jess Eisenberg and Michael Douglas in a scene from Solitary Man
Solitary Man shows audiences that Michael Douglas just keeps getting better with age. Douglas plays Ben Kalmen, successful owner of numerous car dealerships all over Long Island and New Jersey, and the movie begins with a title that says “About 6-1/2 Years Ago.” Ben is in his doctor’s office, where he has just taken his yearly physical, and the doctor comes in and says, “I don’t love your EKG.”

Then we cut suddenly to today, and Ben’s fortunes have changed. He doesn’t want his daughter to call him “Dad” in public, and he doesn’t want his grandson to call him “Grandpa.”

Ben is divorced, he is almost 60, and he is dating a woman for what we are told is to establish a connection with her father.

You see, Ben did something illegal that caused embarrassment to the auto industry, he paid a fine in order to keep from going to prison, and he lost all his dealerships.

Meanwhile, his girlfriend’s daughter, Allyson, is trying to get accepted at Ben’s alma mater in Boston, and when her mother comes down with the flu, she asks Ben to accompany Allyson on her college interview.

Ben not only knows the dean personally, but he has also been a large donor to the college, and his name is on the library.

However, while they are on campus, Ben gets into a fight with a student over a frisbee, and he has a run-in with the campus police.

Allyson is assigned a student, Daniel Cheston, to show her around, and Ben takes it upon himself to give Daniel advice on dating, which he also does with Allyson, but his advice to Allyson takes a surprising turn.

Ben also looks up an old college friend named Jimmy, whom he hasn’t seen in 30 years and who is played by Danny DeVito. Ben had said that he would never come back to the town, and Jimmy had said that he would never leave.

Ben had met his ex-wife, played by Susan Sarandan, on a park bench that is still there, which he remembers fondly.

However, Ben’s actions just keep getting him into more and more trouble, and eventually we learn what caused him to change and bring it all upon himself.

Solitary Man is a terrific study of a scoundrel of a man.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”


“Hotshots” is a weekly movie review by Dan Culberson available on KGNU Community Radio (88.5 FM in Boulder and 1390 AM in Denver, on Filmchannel1, and on Boulder Reporter. Culberson has been reviewing films since 1972 for newspapers, magazines, radio and television.