Solitary Man (Brian Koppelman, David Levien) – Starz Denver Film Festival
The story of a man’s mid-life crises is nothing new. That fight against the movement of time, the effort to relive the days when, as Ben puts it, “I was a lion.”
Ben, (Michael Douglas), is a man in his 50s who has the world by the tail. He’s an auto dealer mogul, brags about the devotion of his wife Nancy (Susan Sarandon), and spouts about his latest dealership location…all to his doctor who is not the bearer of good news. Yes, time has caught up with him and his heart is showing signs of wear.
Move ahead six years and Ben is in a whole new phase of his life. Everyone’s got a dark side, and Ben has definitely found his, and dresses the part. He’s now 60 and although he’s traded his car salesman attire for a black on black ensemble (ironic, considering the film’s title track “Solitary Man” is covered by none other than Johnny Cash, originally written by Neil Diamond), dressed like a Manhattan man-about-town–he’s seen better days.
That news from six years prior threw Ben into a tailspin and through the doors of infidelity and risky business. He’s gone from husband to divorcé, an old man that chases young tail, to put it bluntly. Ben’s gone from the cover of Fortune to the cover of the newspaper, in one of those ‘handcuffed limbs covering the face’ shots, because of the illegal operations of his “honest” auto empire.
Written by Brian Koppelman and co-directed by Koppelman and David Levien, “Solitary Man” embodies the ode that we come into this world by ourselves and we leave on our own. At your highest and your lowest, you’re alone. Ben has hit pay dirt, the top of the peak, and is he’s shuffling around in the dust and muck.
So he’s living his life on a total narcissistic basis, throwing his conscious and sense of right and wrong out the window; stooping to sexual encounters that not only cross the line but obliterate it. This is something he just can’t shake, no matter who in his life tries to bring him into reality, begging him to turn a new leaf—his wife, his daughter (Jenna Fisher from “The Office”), even the quirky college kid (Jesse Eisenberg from “The Education of Charlie Banks,” “Adventureland,” and “Zombieland”) from Ben’s alma mater.
In between the use of metaphors, the figurative and literal meanings in this life story, are slices of sarcasm and opportunities to laugh at Ben, and with him.
“Solitary Man” is also endearing. While one can’t really feel sorry for the guy, but you can’t help feel for him in a slightly cringing way as he turns to his friend from his college days (Danny DeVito) to work at the pizza place where Ben spent his college years. As he stares up at the University’s library that bears his name, paid for during his glory days. As he sits in the bench on campus where he first met his ex-wife Nancy.
Douglas was the perfect actor to play the part of Ben. He’s got that larger-than-life, Trump-like persona as seen in “Wall Street” combined with the ability to reveal a man who’s obviously in pain and completely lost.
“Solitary Man” also gets one to thinking about how we see ourselves, and how much power we put in the hands of others by being concerned with what they think of us. Confiding in Nancy, he recalls the days when he would “walk into the room and it would change.” As time went by, he became invisible. But his friend who spent his life running a pizza restaurant—who never left the college town where they both graduated, who spent his life committed to his wife—is a man who is content and seems relatively happy with his simple life.
Yes, Ben was once young and filled with goodness. Now he’s older and is considering tapping back into that part of himself. Is it something he’s ready to embrace again after the universe has kicked the shit out of him?
“Solitary Man” plays on Saturday, November 14, 8:00pm at the King Center. For tickets go to http://www.denverfilm.org/festival/film/detail.aspx?id=22982&FID=49.
Join E-3 Events for a red carpet reception at Shag Lounge. Richard Schiff (“The West Wing”) will be attending, along with other film festival VIPs. Black tie optional. For reception tickets go to http://www.e-3events.com/page/chai-life-v-reception.