There could not be a more apt title for the new Michael Douglas vehicle than Solitary Man. The film is stacked with talent, including Susan Sarandon, Jesse Eisenberg, Mary-Louise Parker and long time Douglas pal Danny DeVito, but with the lone exception of one brutal yet quick scene involving the uniquely named Imogen Poots giving Douglas' titular lothario his comeuppance, no one is ever given a damn thing to do other than matter-of-factly react to the actions of Douglas' aforementioned character. For better or for worse, this is Douglas' film. Now this wouldn't be a bad thing if Douglas himself was given anything interesting to do, but alas, he is not.
Even a great actor such as Douglas (and an underrated one as well if you want to pick a fight) can only do so much when he is given the most ordinary, middle-of-the-road material to do so with. The man does give it his all, and in doing so keeps the film from falling into the abyss, but still the film feels tired and with it, so does Douglas. Playing an aging, fallen hero of sorts (a sort of there but for the grace of God go I kind of character) Douglas is meant to seem tired I suppose, but here it seems less the character and more the actor who just wants to figure things out and get back on the right track - especially after a decade long line of questionable roles in his post Wonder Boys career.
Many of my fellow critics have been calling Douglas' performance one of the best of his career - right up there with Professor Grady Tripp of Wonder Boys and Wall Street's Gordon Gekko !!? - but sadly, I just don't see it. I think Douglas is a talented actor (one of the best working today!) and the two aforementioned performances (along with his roles in Fatal Attraction, The War of the Roses, The Game, The American President and especially Falling Down - even in baser fare such as Basic Instinct and his hee-larious guest turn on Will & Grace!) are spectacular indeed, but here he is left wading in an insular world of cliche and stereotype. A solitary world if you will.
In sum, a world that he tries his best to make his own and does manage to somewhat save (the final few moments manage to lift the film out of the boilerplate muck as well), but a world where the great actor is left alone with his character's foibles and not much else. [07/11/10]