Solitary Man

film_SOLITARYMANThe old Neil Diamond song about a good guy who can’t find a faithful woman is an odd choice for the title of this film (it’s sung by Johnny Cash over the opening credits). This movie’s male protagonist is the exact opposite, a prowling horndog who’s inability to keep it in his pants destroys every relationship in his life. Maybe co-directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien didn’t listen to the lyrics, or maybe it’s just another colossal miscalculation in this highly preposterous and unpleasant film. Michael Douglas stars as Ben Kalmen, once a powerhouse New York City car dealer. But philandering has cost him his ex-wife and business partner (Susan Sarandon), a fraud conviction makes it impossible to get financing for a new dealership, and now that he’s pushing 60, he’s a slave to his wandering libido, deluding himself that his compulsive sexual conquests will stave off the ravages of time.

He just can’t say no, whether escorting the provocative daughter (Imogen Poots) of his current girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker) to her upstate college campus, or alienating his own grown daughter (Jenna Fischer) by dallying with the mom of one of his grandson’s playmates. Viewers who expect a charming or tender side of Ben to emerge, or a hard-won epiphany of wisdom, will be disappointed. He’s a cad with no story arc and no redeeming self-awareness. (His “explanation” for his self-destructive actions is blatantly ridiculous.) Even more implausibly, others in the story find him as irresistible as he finds himself. Women fall like dominoes for his pick-up lines. (The only one we ever hear is remarkable in its cynicsm; it’s a relief when it finally fails to work on one savvy female. Otherwise, neither we nor scriptwriter Koppleman can imagine what this loser could ever say to talk a woman into bed.) And under no possible circumstances would this 60-year-old sleazeball get invited to campus frat parties, or mentor the nerdy, idolizing underclassman (Jesse Eisenberg) who’s assigned to show him around as if he were some sort of celebrity. He’s a car dealer, not J. D. freakin’ Salinger. Douglas works hard, but can’t make us care. It’s up to long-wed deli owner Danny DeVito to impart the rationle for fidelity: since all young women eventually get fat and wrinkled, he’d rather stick with “the one I can talk to.” Oh, please. (R) 90 minutes. (★) LJ
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