Koch on Film

“Solitary Man” (+)

A small movie dependent on the performance of a single actor (Michael Douglas), this is an interesting film that is worth seeing — but it’s not as good as it could have been.

It reminded me of the movie “The Cooler,” which is also totally dependent on the performance of its prime actor, William H. Macy.  That is an excellent film, which you should rent if you have never seen it.

In this picture, Douglas portrays a man in his 60s, Ben Kalmen, who is immensely egotistical, afraid of growing old, and addicted to sex.  His relationships, primarily with young women, are transient.  We learn that Ben is a superb auto salesman, who at one time owned a major franchise.  After being convicted of a financial offense connected with his business, he was spared a prison sentence but paid a fine and lost his franchise.

Ben is divorced from Nancy (Susan Sarandon).  While her appearances in the film are few, they are important.  He continues to have a friendly relationship with Nancy as well as with their daughter, Susan (Jenna Fischer), and his grandson.

Ben lives with his girlfriend, Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker), a wealthy woman with a very powerful father whom we never meet.  Jordan has an 18-year-old daughter, Allyson (Imogen Poots).  Ben is asked by Jordan to take Allyson to her college of choice over a weekend where she is to be interviewed.  It is the same college of which Ben is an alumnus and to which he has been a generous donor.

What plays out is a major sexual indiscretion committed by Ben during his visit to the college.  Jordan’s response to Ben’s action is to use her father and his power to punish him, physically and financially — adding to Ben’s further descent into his personal hell.  The plot had all the makings of a tour de force.  Regrettably, it did not occur.

Henry Stern said:  “This film depicts the deterioration of a minor-league Madoff who offends and betrays everyone, even those trying to help him.  For his sins, he is repaid in full measure.  The movie should have been titled ‘A Pathetic Man’ — but then who would go see it?” 

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. Now screening at, among other places, the Angelika Film Center (18 West Houston Street). For screening times, call 212-995-2000.