I’ve been writing for It’s Just Movies since Oct. 1 and my first review for the site was one for “A Serious Man.” Since then, my success has sky-rocketed dramatically and I have expanded to other websites and you can now type in my name in Google and have it finish it for you (a true mark of success). Now, I guess I’ll use this review as a chance to thank Sean Gerski for publishing my works since the start, but also to become closer to my readers, who though they may pick up on bits of personality from reading one of my many reviews, never know much else.
This is where I differ from other film critics. Although, I don’t pay attention to any disdain to my works, I do appreciate those who read and comment on any of my pieces, and it’s for this reason that I feel comfortable with sharing a portion of my life-story for these dedicated individuals.
Since childhood, I’ve treated people like business transactions. I only made connections to people when I wanted something and though I’m not proud of it, I’d stomp all over them the second I got it.
I never trusted the aspect of friendship. Sure, people tried to get close to me, but I rejected them through my signature sarcasm (which readers got a taste of in my review for “Harry Brown”). But then I met my girlfriend, who has changed my life. I don’t know what compelled me to leave my solitude and I don’t think I ever will, but it was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
Now this personal back-story is not superfluous to my review for “Solitary Man,” which, from the title, I knew that I’d relate to and that is the reason for its appeal to me. I felt a certain bond to the film’s protagonist, Ben Kalmen — played by the excellent Michael Douglas — a character whose personal and professional life falls apart after several business and romance-related indiscretions.
Kalmen, who was once a successful car magnate, resorts to being a professional skirt-chaser. He aches to relive a youth in which he was successful and had a loving family, but we, as the audience, are presented with the moment that destroyed Kalmen’s life from the get-go. In the first scene, Kalmen is seen in a doctor’s office in which he is given the bad news that there are “irregularities” in his heart following a routine check-up.
Everything goes down-hill from there and Kalmen struggles to find a job, his marriage is down the drain and he’s in a relationship with a woman (played by Mary-Louise Parker of “Weeds”) for whom he doesn’t even have feelings — he is just with her because of her connections. The downward spiral continues when Kalmen sleeps with her daughter, thus sending her father after Kalmen — kicking him out of the neighborhood in which both the college he graduated from and also his best and only friend, Jimmy Merino, both reside. Merino is played by the heart-warming and charismatic Danny DeVito — an actor of whom I haven’t heard from in years.
“Solitary Man” has a plethora of powerful scenes, including one in which Kalmen stands in front of a library which he donated during his prime. A sign with his name on it stands boldly on top of the place of study, and it serves as a constant reminder for the disillusioned protagonist. But it also introduces Kalmen to Jesse Eisenberg’s character, Daniel Cheston, an awkward youth who Kalmen helps find love. However, Ben isn’t the type of person to just help someone, and during the second act, the “business-transaction” side of his personality is once again magnified.
But as the climax nears, Kalmen’s solitude intensifies. There’s a dramatic scene in which he sits in his apartment and the time elapses. Furniture is disappearing, and all Kalmen does is sit on his couch. His fears and personal insecurities have over-taken him and he pleads to his daughter, played by Jenna Fischer “The Office,” for money to pay his bills.
But Fischer’s character is the exact opposite of Kalmen. She doesn’t take risks and is more relatable to her father when he is experiencing his bout of depression. She is almost oppressed by her husband and has no opinions of her own and instead does everything for others and not for herself — assuring her position as the antithesis of her father.
“Solitary Man” worked for me because I felt a deep connection to the film’s characters — which are all expertly acted. They’re all enjoyable company in one way or another and the film’s excellently-scripted and paced story-line adds to the appeal.
Being an ex-”Solitary Man,” I left the theater with renewed hope for both myself and Ben Kalmen.
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Follow Mariusz Zubrowski on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ItsJustMariusz.