Solitary Man

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -3

Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, Danny DeVito. Drama. Written by Brian Koppelman. Directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien. It opened in limited release 5/21/10.

SYNOSPSIS: A once successful Manhattan mogul who owned a chain of car dealerships suddenly learns he may have (I said may have) a heart problem. This sets him on a destructive, self-absorbed road, abandoning the needs of others, seeking only satisfy self. He becomes desperate as his choices are destructive, but he bull headedly stays the course.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I wonít say movies are at their best when they make you think.† Sometimes, the reason we go to movies is so we wonít have to think.† But itís getting harder and harder to find films that stimulate more than the testosterone levels.† And itís even more difficult finding something original.† Summer after summer we are deluged by action thrillers with II or III or IV numbered behind the familiar title.† Well, Solitary Man is clever, witty and, yes, original.

Itís about this desperate man, corrupted by his own selfishness.† Somehow, despite this dominating unlikable trait, Michael Douglas plays him with just enough humanity to make him relatable. Through this brave performance, viewers see that we are all carriers of the same me-istic gene.†† As we sit there, we are reminded of just how destructive manís nature can become when not controlled by the commands Jesus said were the most important Ė love God and love others as yourself.

Now, before you run out to see Solitary Man, keep in mind that it is R-rated. It contains objectionable language, including two misuses of our Saviorís name, and there are frank sexual discussions and situations. I didnít find the sexuality exploitive, but rather incorporated to reveal how sex can corrupt the soul when no regard is given to biblical instruction. Still, itís difficult to praise a film that profanes Christís name. So, why the preceding compliment?

Along with ignoring the Bibleís directives, Hollywoodís greatest sin is mediocrity. Letís face it, we get a lot of mediocrity from the film industry. While CGI effects draw attention away from the inanity of most summer blockbusters, when honestly examined, one has to come to the conclusion that the film industryís mindset with satisfying mainly the 14-year-old male demographic is limited, and a doltish way to treat an art form. So, here comes a film that has something to say about human nature. It allows the viewer to become circumspect. The filmís ending had the audience responding out loud, the patrons leaving the theater discussing the final shot. It started many a good conversation. Wow, do I like that from a film.

Solitary Man feels as if it came from a decade ago when intimate dramas were still a viable commodity in Tinseltown. Again, I donít mean that as a slam against thought-distracting action adventures. Iím just frustrated with the entertainment communityís preference for comic books as source material.

But since I am unable to defend the two profane uses of Christís name in Solitary Man, allow me to offer up a few DVD alternatives. This is where my detractors roll their eyes, saying, ďPhil only likes old movies.Ē No, thatís not the case. What I like is a film where the special effects are the story, dialogue and more than one-dimensional characterizations Ė where CGI is used to enhance a tale, not become the filmís main draw. Itís difficult to find those ingredients in most of todayís films, and when you do, they are often frequented by crudity of speech or deed.

DVD Alternatives: The Apostle (1997). This perceptive drama, written, directed and starring Robert Duvall, never condescends, nor is it antagonistic toward people of faith while telling its story of a good but imperfect manís redemption. PG-13. I found nothing offensive for exploitive purposes. The implied adultery, its one violent scene, the reverend's faulty nature, and a couple of mild expletives serve to further the story rather than shock us or malign the ministry.

The Gospel. A semi-autobiographical film about the transformative power of faith and forgiveness, The Gospel is a contemporary drama packed with the soaring, soulful sounds of gospel music. Set in the impassioned world of the African-American church, The Gospel tells the story of David Taylor (Boris Kodjoe), a dynamic young R&B star torn between his successful new life and the one he used to know. (Hey, it came out in 2008 Ė take that, you eye-rollers!)

C.S. Lewisís Through The Shadowlands. Not to be confused with the Anthony Hopkins/Debra Winger version (simply titled Shadowlands), this account of the Christian authorís friendship and eventual marriage to a woman who discovers she is dying stars Josh Ackland and Clair Bloom. This is a lovely, thoughtful film. Maybe hard to find, but worth the effort.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Anchor Bay Films

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: A few crude sexual remarks.

Obscene Language: Around 30 obscenities, mostly a mix of the s- and f-words; several minor expletives, such as damn and hell.

Profanity: I caught two profane uses of Christís name, one from the main protagonist and one from a young side character.

Violence: A man is beaten by a mob thug.

Sex: Three sexual situations and several sexual discussions, a couple of them rather graphic in detail.

Nudity: One shot of the backside of a woman getting out of bed.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Lots of drinking, including a college party where young people are over-indulging.

Other: None

Running Time: 90 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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