If the ongoing meltdown of an obnoxious asshole’s three-quarter-life crisis is your idea of a good time, have at it. Sixty-something Ben Kalmen (Michael Douglas) takes some potentially bad news from his doctor and turns it into an excuse to trash his reputation as an honest businessman, divorce his wife (Susan Sarandon), and alienate his adult daughter (Jenna Fischer) and her young son (Jake Richard Siciliano). Now he spends his days trying to seduce very young women — and mostly succeeding because, I dunno, everyone loves a washed-up old dude? — and hanging out with college kids (including Jesse Eisenberg), because the prospect of looming death has made him realize... what? That being a self-centered, bordering-on-sociopathic monster is the best way to wrap up one’s life?
Douglas turns in a fantastic performance — and it’s an intriguing counterpoint to his iconic character, Gordon Gekko, whom he’s revisiting at the moment in the new Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. The entire cast — which also includes a charming cameo by Danny DeVito as an old friend of Ben’s whose life has gone in a much different direction — is excellent. Yet the entire film feels empty and pointless. Ben is a thoroughly unpleasant guy with no redeeming qualities and little to offer us by way of contrast; it’s hardly a newsflash that being an asshole may turn people against you. And directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien (they jointly wrote Ocean’s 13, though this is far from that kind of jape) don’t have anything new to reveal to us about how men face their mortality or how women appear to be driven to enable the jerks in their lives. The female characters, including Mary-Louise Parker as Ben’s new lover and Imogen Poots as her teenaged daughter — who is also quite mysteriously sleeping with Ben — are embarrassingly underdrawn. Through them we might have learned what made Ben lovable once or what makes him just barely tolerable today, but that’s entirely missing here. Give Solitary Man a miss: You won’t be missing anything at all. (Rated R)