Saturday, 19 September 2020
The Soloist
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 00:00
soloistposterFrom the moment I saw the preview for The Soloist I knew that this movie would do nothing for me at all. Now, you might think it harsh of me to say that this sort of “feel good, based on a true story” drama just doesn’t appeal to me… most people lap this stuff up. But consider this. Usually these types of films spend more time being depressing than uplifting, and we all know that any iota of fact is smothered in fiction to the point of being unrecognizable.

Preconceived notions aside I walked in to the theatre with an open mind. In fact I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised since The Soloist has some good things going for it including one of my favorite actors Robert Downey Jr. I will admit that I didn’t get what I was expecting… Instead of feeling tepid ambivalence, I felt active dislike for this film!soloistpic1

Downey Jr. plays Steve Lopez, a down on his luck reporter for the L.A. Times. His ex-wife (Catherine Keener) is also his editor and he’s really feeling the pressure of finding his next big story to get her off his back. Discouraged after a series of dead-ends, Lopez finds himself listening to a homeless man playing music in the park. That man is musical prodigy Anthony Ayers (Jamie Foxx) who became homeless after dropping out of Juilliard due to mental illness. Intrigued by Ayer’s untapped talent, Lopez strikes up a conversation and quickly realizes he has found the next subject for his column. What he doesn’t realize is that he has also found a friend who would change his lsoloistpic2ife forever.

The Soloist tells an interesting story, but in a way that makes it terribly uninteresting. It is long and drawn out and just when you think it’s about to pick up the pace a sappy musical montage slows it right back down again. Director Joe Wright (Atonement) tries a little too hard to give it an “artsy” feel, but the best moments in the film are the ones that are the least contrived. The film is particularly effective in portraying the cruelty and rawness of street life in L.A., and how terrifying life in a homeless shelter can be. It is no wonder so many people would rather fend for themselves when the alternative is so incredibly bleak and hostile. I think more focus on depicting this way of life would have made for a much more powerful film.

The acting is nothing to scoff at, especially Downey Jr. who always adds nice dimension to his characters. I’m not a fan of Jamie Foxx, but I’ll admit he did a bang up job of playing Ray Charles. He doesn’t quite achieve the same level of performance here, and I can’t help but feel this is one of those roles actors take because it might be a good Oscar-grab. Underutilized is Catherine Keener who is compelling in her small role. She is believable as a hard-nosed editor, but also shows vulnerability and regret in her ruined relationship with Lopez.

The Soloist will no doubt get plenty of praise but for the most part it won’t be from me. With the exception of the nice work of cast members I found it dull and not very involving.