(2009)4Derek ArmstrongThe critical consensus was that Solitary Man represented Michael Douglas' best work since Wonder Boys a decade earlier. Best, maybe; most likable, no. In both films, Douglas is a middle-aged charmer who ignores warning signs in his health by losing himself in youthful pastimes -- smoking marijuana in Wonder Boys, chasing women who could be his granddaughters in Solitary Man. But the comparison ends there. Solitary Man's Ben Kalmen is simply not a very good person. We'd gladly forgive the shady business dealings that forced him to forfeit a successful car dealership; that's the kind of flaw we accept in, and expect from, our protagonists, the necessary sin at the beginning of any road to redemption. It's his voracious appetite for young women that's not so cute -- in part, though least importantly, because this compulsion is so self-destructive, in one case threatening to derail his comeback in the business world. More importantly, grandfathers who seduce high school seniors are just plain icky. Comparing Ben to Wonder Boys' pot-smoking professor, Grady Tripp, might not seem relevant if Solitary Man weren't consciously or unconsciously imitating Wonder Boys in other ways, such as setting a chunk of the action in a university town, featuring a handful of absurd set pieces, and putting forth a wistful tone that doesn't quite work with this particular story. Fortunately, Douglas himself is deserving of any and all accolades directed at him. He's nuanced, he's believably blind to his own flaws, and sometimes, he's wickedly funny. The problem is that writer-director Brian Koppelman and co-director David Levien want us to really like this man, so much so that they try to let him off the hook with only a couple small-scale comeuppances. It seems Ben's creators are just as charmed by him as the teenage girls he craves.