Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Soloist

I have to admit that I was sucked into seeing The Soloist largely because of the previews - those "change your life" trailers that pack humor and emotion always seem to get me. Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx (yes, I think he's a good actor) were both draws as well.

For those unfamiliar with the plot I will explain briefly or you can watch the trailer here. The Soloist is based on a true story that follows a moderately famous LA Times columnist, Steve Lopez (Downey Jr.) as he comes across and befriends a schizophrenic homeless man named Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx). Lopez first meets Ayers as he plays beautiful music on a two stringed violin and then Lopez discovers that Ayers is a former student of Julliard - I smell cover story!

Lopez tries to better Ayers' life while writing his column, and we discover more about the tragedies of Ayers' genius while learning of Lopez's dreams and loss. But we are also drawn into a world of the L.A. forgotten - the skid row homeless. These elements and the journey of these two men, though predictable, is beautiful and for that we must commend Atonement director Joe Wright.

I found Wright's approach inspiring; we see and feel sound and music, and we hear obsession, suffering and hope. The Soloist is definitely unique in its presentation of a biopic/memoir-type film. It is a little convoluted though in presenting its story.

There are themes and metaphors that just don't fit. Lopez spends a good bit of time soaked in urine for no other reason that to get a giggle and it fails - surprise! And the representation of the homeless/skid row and LA's police was a bit overdone. I understand where Wright wanted to go, but he missed his mark. He did succeed in his direction of his two leads, however.

Downey Jr. and Foxx are good, particularly in the latter parts of the 2nd Act of this film as we see Lopez's obsession take over much like Ayers' schizophrenia has done with him. But lets not kid ourselves there will be no Oscar buzz around them for their performances in this film.

The film is slow paced, but that's not a bad thing. In terms of action and development, not much happens there either, but it's the thought-provoking quality and unique presentation of this film that are the draw. The movie ties together in the end and leaves you...well, where you hoped to be left. See this movie in theaters if you enjoy these type of slow paced dramas. Otherwise wait for DVD and enjoy it on a lazy day. -- 3 Reels out of 5

1 comment:

paul said...

Liked the review. I've seen this one for much the same reason as you and had similar reactions.