Solitary Man

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Solitary Man Movie Poster Image
Gripping drama about getting older has drinking, sex.
  • R
  • 2010
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Acceptance of life's passages is crucial to aging with dignity, self-awareness, and trustworthiness ("You can't cheat death)." There are severe consequences for bad behavior and irresponsibility; and yet family and friends may offer a second chance. It takes courage to admit mistakes and ask for forgiveness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lead character starts out as a self-indulgent, dishonest scam artist. He pays dearly for his corrupted soul and finally sees the error of his ways. Other family members are shown to be good parents and good friends: honorable, loyal, and forgiving.

Violence

One brief tussle and fist fight between the mature hero and a college student. The hero is later subjected to a brutal beating by a hired thug.

Sex

Lots of frank discussion throughout the film about sexuality and the various characters' sexual experiences. Main character (identified as 60 years old) leers and flirts with women of all ages continually; for a time he focuses on an 18-year-old girl. There are multiple scenes of undressing, some sexual foreplay, passionate embracing, partial nudity, and post-sexual cuddling. A college party shows students making out.

Language

Occasional swearing: "f--k," "hell," "ass," "asshole," "d--kwad," "sh--," "crap, "get you off," "balls, and more.

Consumerism

Jeep,  Apple Computer, BMW.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many scenes include social drinking: dinner, parties, etc. and some underage drinking, including at a college event. Lead character gets very drunk on one occasion.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is an adult movie with mature themes, lots of sexual discussion and some sexual, and a leading character who, in an effort to delay aging and mortality, obsessses about his appeal and sexual prowess, targeting women of all ages. In one scene, he takes on a male college student in a fist fight, and then later is brutally beaten by a hired thug.  Alcoholic beverages are frequently consumed at social gatherings, dinners, etc., sometimes by underage drinkers. One scene depicts the film's hero as very drunk.

User Reviews

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What's the story?

Ben Kalman's (Michael Douglas) life is coming apart. He's a persistent womanizer, a skilled manipulator, and a callous liar. His long-term marriage to Nancy (Susan Sarandon) is over; his beloved daughter's patience with him is wearing thin; he's recently sabotaged a successful and profitable Fortune 500 career; and he's in the final throes of self-destructing in his newest relationship. Grasping at what he is afraid are his last days of virility and power, Ben behaves badly and makes a series of devastatingly poor choices that send him even closer to the brink of disaster.

Is it any good?

Michael Douglas seems to do his very best work when he's playing a heel (Wall Street, Wonder Boys), and that's very much the case here. He slips easily and vividly into the role of Ben Kalman, a perfect vehicle that plays to his strengths. The story doesn't break any new ground, but it's well told and includes standout supporting performances from top to bottom, with Danny DeVito in a rare dramatic role; Jenna Fischer revealing much more than she gets to show in her television work; and Jesse Eisenberg, who's fast becoming the go-to college wonder boy himself.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the acceptance of life's passages and aging. How does Hollywood and the cult of celebrity affect society's attitudes about growing older?

  • Ben Kalman is dishonest in many of his relationships. What price does he pay? How do you think the story would have changed if he had gotten away with his behavior?

  • The film's ending is ambiguous. Why do you think the filmmakers made that choice?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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