There’s nothing more pathetic than watching a 60-year-old man who refuses to grow up. You know the type — he tells his grandkids not to call him ”grandpa” in public. He leers at teenage coeds because he thinks he still has a shot. He smooth-talks everyone, clueless to the fact that they’re no longer buying what he has to sell. No one plays these sad, aging lions better than Michael Douglas. I’ll leave it to the shrinks to determine whether it’s because deep down, Douglas actually is one of these guys, or if it’s because he’s just that talented. Either way, he makes these rotting lotharios catnip for audiences.
Whether it’s his pot-casualty college professor in 2000’s underrated Wonder Boys or the unrepentant screwup Ben Kalmen in his latest film, the slight but powerful Solitary Man, Douglas slings BS so effortlessly that it sounds like poetry. Kalmen was once a high-rolling car salesman until he threw it all away — his family (ex-wife Susan Sarandon), his business (he cooked the books), and his health (he’s got a bum ticker). Now he clings to shallow pleasures like bedding his girlfriend’s 18-year-old daughter just because he can. He knows he’s dying physically and spiritually — something that, it must be said, gains added poignance with the star’s recent diagnosis of a throat tumor. But Douglas’ gift as an actor is that he keeps you watching, and maybe even rooting for his redemption. The EXTRAS include a commentary from codirectors Brian Koppelman and David Levien. B+