A young friend calls Wonder Boys a middle-aged-man movie, and it‘s easy to see her point. The soundtrack features songs by Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, midlife droners all, and the story turns on a 50-year-old’s crises of faith -- in himself, in his work, in his capacity to love. Yet it‘s hard to think of another recent American movie that approaches this kind of man and these sorts of failings with such empathy; with what, in other contexts, might be called soul -- if the idea of Michael Douglas and soul didn’t sound nonsensical. But there is something undeniably soulful in this film, in the way Tripp verges on farce yet retains his dignity, like the bluesman who shoots his woman‘s dog, then runs from her, her man and the law, and still manages to squeeze out the right grace note. And while Tripp is absurd, whether lighting a joint while wrapped in ratty pink chenille or shaking a blind hound off his ankle, he’s unmistakable, recognizable. If nothing else, Hanson, Chabon and the talented screenwriter Steve Kloves, whose tempered adaptation often improves on the novel, want to persuade us of the beingness, the stubborn passion, that makes Tripp ridiculous and true. It‘s no small thing that, for the most part, they succeed.