Michael Douglas seems to have a penchant for starring in films that either go straight to DVD or feature very little screen time in theaters. Such is this case with Solitary Man, a well-received film (by critics) that opened in under two hundred theaters despite having one of the most robust cast listings in recent memory. With a low profile release in theaters it’s no wonder Anchor Bay went the opposite direction for the home video release, as I’ve already seen quite a few commercials for it on TV (no doubt attempting to capitalize on both the sequel to Wall Street as well as The Social Network).
Ben (Michael Douglas) once ruled a car-dealership empire vast enough to fuel a glossy Manhattan lifestyle and endow a library at an East Coast university. But by the time he arrives at the college with his girlfriend’s daughter, Allyson (Imogen Poots), who is a prospective student, his world has collapsed around his ears. A business scandal has cost him his income and his marriage to Nancy (Susan Sarandon). His ever-present lust for every passing attractive woman threatens to take what little Ben has left. Even his new relationship with Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker) oscillates with tension. When Ben takes Allyson to tour the school, his motives are more than mixed.
I really just wanted to see this film for the cast. It reads like a laundry list of both those who have already traversed a massive amount of Hollywood, those still in the middle and those who are still considered newcomers to the field. It’s a great roster and an incredible amount of talent dispersed in such a short film, which sadly means we don’t really see any of the talent really exploited. They’re all bit-parts (Mary-Louise Parker’s especially) and as a result no one really gets a fair shake…although it’s obvious where the films $15 million budget went, considering there is very little flash or pizzazz in this production. As an additional aside, Danny DeVito was surprisingly…grounded in this film. All those years of watching him on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia kind of warped my vision of what he’s really like.
In any case the film itself is basically Douglas’s character going a bit crazy after he’s diagnosed with…some kind of heart condition. It’s never really divulged as to what this condition is, but it’s apparently serious enough for him to ignore the tests and to live the life he wants to live. Through a series of set backs with getting his new car dealership off the ground to his strained relationship with his daughter, his life is a bit of a mess. He only compounds that further when he sleeps with his girlfriend’s daughter and…well, that’s basically the entire plot. The rest of the film is him just wandering around to his alma mater and getting a job at a local food joint. It’s definitely an interesting character study of a man who once had everything and now has just about nothing, but that novelty wears off as you quickly grow sick of Douglas’s characters behavior.
And that’s really my whole issue with the film. He tries to sleep with anyone who walks past him, attempts to get money out of his daughter nearly every time they meet and exploits his old college friend for a place to stay. It’s obviously a man who is distraught and in disarray, but at the same time it’s just a very annoying character to witness. You can’t really feel sorry for him because he still manages to sweet talk his way into most things, but at the same time his potentially (we don’t really know for sure though) deadly heart condition weighs on your mind as well. Only they never mention the heart thing again until the very end, so it kind of recedes to the back of your mind as you watch him hop from woman to woman.
In the end the film’s cast is the most redeeming factor, but that’s not saying much really. I should also give Douglas props as well as he does deliver a stunning performance, even though there’s really not much to like about the character he portrays. It’s definitely a character-piece kind of film, but I felt like I’ve seen bits and pieces of this before (some from King of California, another Douglas direct-to production, but one that I enjoyed much more than this one, though it shares some similarities in the father/daughter relationship area). Overall it’s worth a Rental just for the cast, but the story itself is pretty rudimentary.
The set itself arrives in a standard single-disc Elite Blu-ray case without any kind of slipcover or anything. Inside is a barren case with just the lonely disc. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and extras…well, we’ll tackle that amazing element in a paragraph or so.
Video is a VC-1 encoded 1080p effort and as usual it looks great. There isn’t a whole lot on this disc to fight for space so the fact that there are some moments of compression that crop up is a bit bewildering; but aside from that there are plenty of daylight sequences that really show off what the format is capable when it comes to lighting and the detail that they can provide. It’s a pretty nice looking little transfer, although nothing that will shock you. The LPCM 5.1 mix is decidedly kind of overkill on a film like this so it’s no surprise that the surrounds barely make a whisper most of the time. Same for the LFE really—it’s a pretty mundane audio mix but it serves its purpose. Also a bit strange they went with LPCM and not a TrueHD or DTS-HD codec, but whatever. Burn up that extra disc space!
Audio Commentary with writer/director Brian Koppelman, director David Levien, actor Douglas McGrath
Alone in a Crowd (11:46, SD)
I’m not sure why they chose the guy who played the dean in the film to be on the commentary track (although he is a pretty well known writer in his own right, so that may be why), the track itself is fairly informative. They talk mostly about the locations used and the actors involved and…well, you know, talk about the production of the film. It’s a typical commentary track but a decent listen if you enjoyed the film. The “Alone” bit is just a run of the mill making-of featurette and nothing to get too excited about.
Overall a strict Rental disc.
Solitary Man is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.