Oscar winner Michael Douglas (“Wall Street” and “Fatal Attraction”) could read the telephone book and it would be entertaining. He gives an acting clinic in this character study of a despicable womanizer.
Everything seemed to be going right for Ben Kalman (Douglas). He was happily married to his college sweetheart Nancy (Susan Sarandon from “Dead Man Walking” and “Thelma & Louise”), ran a successful business with a reputation as “New York’s honest car dealer,” and made a generous donation that got his name on the library of the liberal arts college that he attended. Things changed drastically 6 ½ years ago when his doctor during an annual physical exam detected an irregular heartbeat.
Flash forward to the present. Ben, age 59, is divorced and living alone. He had to pay a huge fine to stay out of jail for unethical business practices. He turns to his married daughter Susan (Jenna Fischer from “The Office”) for money to pay his rent. He is dating Park Avenue divorcee Jordan Karsch (Mary-Louise Parker from “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Grand Canyon”) because her father has the connections to get him another BMW dealership.
He agrees to escort Jordan’s 18-year-old daughter Allyson (Imogen Poots from “Me and Orson Welles”) to Boston for an interview at his alma mater. He thinks getting her admitted should be a piece of cake since he is on a first name basis with the dean. Jordan is unable to go along because she has the flu. Her trust in this charming, persuasive and smooth-talking guy is misplaced when he does something unforgivable.
Ben ends up turning to his old friend Jimmy Merino (Danny DeVito from “The War of the Roses” and “Throw Momma from the Train”) for lodging and a job at the greasy spoon diner near the campus.
Screenwriter and co-director Brian Koppleman (“Runaway Jury”) gives you an understanding of what makes this guy tick almost to the point of feeling compassion. Ben is a serial sinner always on the prowl to seduce another dame. Due to a hedonistic “me first” philosophy, Ben views every form of human interaction in terms of how he benefits from the transaction.
The movie opens with the familiar title song written by Neil Diamond and sung by Johnny Cash. The distinguished and classy Douglas has a few wrinkle lines on his forehead and touches of gray in a full head of hair. He has the remarkable ability to hold your interest while appearing on camera throughout the entire 90-minute running time. His glib remarks and frank discussions about sex make for an entertaining mature adult drama.
The title is explained when Ben tells Nancy how alone he felt during the highest and lowest moments in his life. The supporting cast is terrific, playing off of the charismatic Douglas, especially DeVito and Poots. The bottom line is an unforgettable lead performance that stays with you long after the lights have come up in the theater. It is now playing exclusively for a limited engagement at the Rio in Overland Park.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"