Review: Solitary Man (TIFF)
PLOT: After receiving some frightening health news, a car magnate (Michael Douglas), leaves his wife (Susan Sarandon), and spends the next few years hopping from one bed to another, leaving a series of jilted flings in his wake. He also manages to wreck his business, and alienate his daughter (Jenna Fischer) leading to him taking a road trip to his Alma-mater, where, with the help of an old college buddy (Danny DeVito), he tries to put the pieces of his life back together.
REVIEW: First the good news: SOLITARY MAN is almost a great movie. It gives Michael Douglas his best role since TRAFFIC, and proves that he's still just as good an actor as he's always been. More importantly, it proves that he's not someone who's afraid of confronting his advancing age on-screen, and is more than willing to subvert his own image.
When you hear the name Michael Douglas, which films come to mind? BASIC INSTINCT, FATAL ATTRACTION, WALL STREET, ROMANCING THE STONE, and DISCLOSURE, right? What do all those films have in common? They all feature him as a swinging ladies man, and, more often than not a guy at the top of the corporate world. He plays the same type of character here but for once, we get a look at what it would be like for the same guy, once he was over the hill, left behind by big business, and no longer the sure-bet ladies man he once was.
In many ways- this feels like a true summation of Douglas' career. Heck, it even re-teams him with Danny DeVito, his old ROMANCING THE STONE/ JEWEL OF THE NILE sidekick (who also directed one of his best films- THE WAR OF THE ROSES). It'll be interesting to see what he does next, as it really does feel with this that he could close the book on this archetype once and for all (although obviously he's not doing that- he just started shooting WALL STREET 2).
Now the bad news: SOLITARY MAN almost completely falls apart during the last half hour. The first two thirds are great with Douglas nicely playing off the impressive supporting cast including WEEDS' Mary Louise Parker as a beautiful divorcee Douglas is trying to seduce into helping him secure a big business deal, and "The Office's" Jenna Fischer, as his put upon daughter with whom he shares far too much information about his various conquests. There's also a nice little subplot featuring Jesse Eisenberg, as a college student, unlucky in love, who Douglas takes under his wing.
Then SOLITARY MAN hits the one hour mark, and the entire film starts to go down the drain. All of the subplots pay off in the most predictable manner. The last ten minutes are particularly painful, as they totally let the Douglas character off the hook- going for the cliched ending the filmmakers probably think the audience wants. In my case- this ending was the exact opposite of how I hoped the film would end, and it all but ruined what had been a pretty close to fantastic film.
My problems with the last section of the movie aside- I still recommend seeing SOLITARY MAN when it finally comes out- as it's still two thirds of a great film. It's a real shame though- as this could have been another WONDER BOYS.
Other reviews from TIFF: MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS - UP IN THE AIR - JENNIFER'S BODY - THE INVENTION OF LYING - DAYBREAKERS - YOUTH IN REVOLT - THE BOYS ARE BACK - THE ROAD - THE INFORMANT!- BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS - A SERIOUS MAN- LEAVES OF GRASS