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September 14, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

The Soloist


Joe Wright has become something of the journeyman director of modern cinema. He continually produces pictures that are enjoyable and entertaining, yet thoroughly unremarkable. The Soloist is no exception. It is the story of down-on-his-luck reporter Steve Lopez (Downey Jr) and a series of articles he writes about homeless, mentally ill, but very talented musician Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Jr (Foxx). The relationship between the two men is the heart of the film, as Lopez begins to feel a genuine friendship for Ayers. Lopez’s frustration of dealing with someone he cares about who has a mental health disorder provides the films most poignant moments.

Downey Jr after last gracing our screens with Kirk Lazarus over a year ago, makes a welcome return to the big screen. His performance is dynamic and fluctuates between an effortless steady Eddy riff of comedic lines to emotional moments, which are played so truthfully they hurt to watch. Jamie Foxx on the other hand plays Ayers’ ‘full retard’, and it is unfortunate that you can see the effort the actor is putting in while watching his performance. This prevented an emotional connection with the character and leaves you feeling more sorry in many scenes for the more believable Lopez.

The film’s flashback structure is heavy handed and clunky, and whenever something needs explanation the filmmakers decide to insert another flashback. The attempts at symbolism in there flashbacks were also obvious most notably in a scene where Ayers begins hearing voices in his head—there is a TV playing footage of a crying baby in the background. The film’s music also failed to transcend the cinema’s speakers (I know this is a highly personal experience) but is a fundamental flaw in a film where the power of music is so important. Lopez is portrayed in a scene where he listens to Ayers for the first time as having a near religious experience, and you are left sitting in the audience wishing you could experience the same.

It is these contradictions that prevent The Soloist from being nothing more than an entertaining and enjoyable drama. Fortunately the humanity Downey Jr bought to Lopez prevented the film from becoming melodramatic and the film was able to make some salient points about mental health disorders.

The Soloist
Directed by Joe Wright
With Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx


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