“Solitary Man”
 
            There’s no fool like an old fool.  Ben Kalmen (Michael Douglas) is a mature single man who exudes confidence and success; but going to the doctor and hearing the grim diagnosis bursts his invincible bubble.  In fact, it made something important snap within him.
Six and a half years later, now sixty-something, he figures there’s no going back.  There’s no going back to the doctor to undergo the recommended treatments.  He figures he’ll just continue to take a half an aspirin a day and take his chances.  And if he’s not going to have that long to live, anyway, why continue to be upright, respectable, and responsible?  Who cares? 
Ben had been married for years, even happily so, but he decides that now is the time to avail himself of sexual adventure, and so he leaves the sensible, mature Nancy (Susan Sarandon) and engages in a series of flings with younger women, just to see how many he can talk into his bed.  He’s been a successful businessman---prided himself on being “The Most Honest Car Dealer In New York”----but then decided that he knew exactly how to cut some corners to enhance his suddenly-swinging lifestyle.  But then that crashed, too, as did his credibility, and he spent all his money trying to stay out of jail.
His current girlfriend, Jordan (Mary Louse Parker) gets the flu and can’t take her daughter on a college-hunting expedition, and wants Ben to accompany her instead.  Big mistake.  Allyson (Imogen Poots) despises her mother enough to seduce her boyfriend out of spite, and he has so little restraint that he can’t resist.  Now his life is really in ruins.  Even his grown daughter, Susan (Jenna Fischer), begins to turn steely-eyed toward him, even as he borrows money from her for his rent (“I promise, this deal I have going will fix everything”), and then seduces her friend, too. 
Ben seems to have no moral moorings remaining in his life.  He loves his grandson, but his daughter, at the insistence of her indignant husband, has finally told her Dad that her young son just can’t take the disappointment of Ben not showing up at his birthday party (he’d slept late with another floozy and lost track of the time).  Ben has left in his wake a host of disappointed people, including those he cares about most.  But he’s still trying to get the bank to loan him money to start another dealership, or, failing that, approve somebody else’s loan and just let him work there.  Anything to get his foot back in the door.
Ah, Ben, but if you burn too many bridges, you find yourself with no way to go back.  He winds up working at the restaurant of an old college buddy (Danny DeVito) and sleeping on the couch in his living room.  But he’s still ogling the young coeds, much to the disgust of anyone who tries to befriend him.
In the end, there’s only Nancy , just now realizing why he suddenly become so irresponsible.  She offers him a reasonable option, but Ben considers that he has already decided that he no longer wants to be friends with reasonable.  He just wants to go wherever his unleashed id wants to take him.
OK, not to alarm all the contented, unsuspecting women out there, but there is something primal that resonates about the character of Ben Kalmen.  For “mature” men who have played by the expectations all their lives, suddenly staring at the end, it’s a frightening prospect to consider the fun you could have had but were too afraid.  Ah, to just be your own man.  And everyone else will just have to deal with it.
            But there are serious consequences to simplistic selfishness.  You wind up befouling your own nest, and then what?
            Michael Douglas is fantastic in this role, and really looks the part of the proud, once-successful entrepreneur still unwilling to give up on himself.  The desperation clings to him like his wrinkled suit.  The secondary parts are cast just right.  But this film taps into the aging male’s psyche in ways that will catch off-guard many trusting wives, who think they know the man they’ve lived with for all these years.  Or not.
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas