Review: The Soloist
Sep 25 2009 The Journal
Length: 1hr 57mins
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener, Nelsan Ellis
Director: Joe Wright
Star rating: 3
RAW talent will only get you so far. More often than not, it’s the people you know and being in the right place at the right time.
The Soloist is an inspirational true story about a musical prodigy crippled by schizophrenia who unexpectedly gets a second chance thanks to an influential journalist.
The fractious relationship between the two men is at the heart of Joe Wright’s third feature, which trades in the frocks of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement for the grime of 21st Century Los Angeles.
However, it’s squalor with polish. As with those earlier films, Wright cannot convey emotion in a single image when he can orchestrate an intricate tracking shot or a complex sequence littered with hundreds of real-life homeless extras on a graffiti-strewn recreation of Skid Row.
It becomes abundantly clear that he has one eye staring down the lens, the other on a second Academy Award nomination.
Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr) is a columnist on the Los Angeles Times in 2005, whose daily portraits of metropolitan life are missing their old spark.
With a failed marriage to his editor Mary Weston (Catherine Keener) behind him, Steve attempts to concentrate on his work, always looking for that one great story.
And he finds it one day on the streets where a homeless man called Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) is playing a battered two-string violin.
Nathaniel claims to be a student at Juilliard and when Steve checks, the tall tale has a ring of truth.
A reader responds to the column by sending a cello, and Steve arranges for David Carter (Nelsan Ellis), who manages a homeless shelter, to take care of the instrument.
Steve then arranges an apartment for Nathaniel and lessons with a cellist from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Soloist is a worthy drama about the unlikely friendship between two menn.
Yet everything feels contrived, even the comic interludes.