*1/2 (out of 5)
April 24, 2009
Robert Downey Jr. as STEEV LOPEZ
Jamie Foxx as NATHANIEL AYERS
Catherine Keener as MARY WESTON
Stephen Root as CURT
Tom Hollander as GRAHAM CLAYDON
Rachel Harris as LESLIE
Directed by: Joe Wright
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Movies like “The Soloist” fall into the realm of films that I refer to as “Mother-In-Law Movies.” I give them this title because they are films that I really don’t like – sometime bordering on hatred – but that I do recognize have a specific audience. That audience is someone like my mother-in-law.
My mother-in-law loves movies about the human spirit, movies that will make an audience member weep, movies that move the soul and show the beauty in life.
In general, I hate these kinds of movies. I find them tedious, boring, pretentious and long-winded. All of these are criticisms I have with “The Soloist,” but I also recognize that this movie was not made for someone like myself (and by ‘someone” I mean “a cynical bastard”).
“The Soloist” tells the true story of Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a schizophrenic homeless man in Los Angeles that is one of the most talented musicians living today. He is discovered by Steve Lopez (Robert Downy Jr.), a writer for the Los Angeles Times who is searching for the subject of his next column. Intrigued by how a talented musician could attend Julliard and then become homeless, Lopez follows Ayers around and tries to get him help, while fostering his musical brilliance.
There’s plenty to love about “The Soloist.” Like anything assembled by Joe Wright, this is a brilliantly made film. The cinematography is excellent, and the acting it top notch. What else would you expect from fine artists like Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx.
Still, even though the movie is beautiful to watch, it wears thin incredibly fast. Going into the film, you know that it’s meant to be a piece that allows the audience to fully experience the art of the story – from the music that is played to the acting that brings that music across. However, like any film that wraps itself in a dramatic style, it has a tendency to overdo it. By the fifth time we see a scene that could be pulled out as a potential Oscar clip, I got really bored.
Yes, both Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx can act, but like other spotlight pieces, they are just given too many Oscar clips. It gets tiresome to see them emote so passionately on screen.
Similarly, there are too many moments in the film that attempt to show the beauty of music in a visual sense. I get it… listening to Beethoven can make you feel like you’re in a world of your own. I get it… music can help you escape. I get it… music can take you on a journey. Do we have to be shown this again and again? Were director Joe Wright to have cut out much of the extraneous moments in this film, the movie would only be about thirty minutes long… and I would have welcomed this.
Then there’s the story. I know “The Soloist” is based on the real life of Nathaniel Ayers, and I’m sure there’s quite a bit of accuracy there. However, I get weary of seeing characters in movies that don’t want to help themselves.
My wife is a teacher, and I’ve told her that in spite of my own teaching degree, I wouldn’t be able to teach today’s students. I would lose patience fast with them. I am constantly frustrated with people in real life who cannot deal with the day-to-day mundane stresses. So why would I want to see a movie about this kind of person.
Plus, the movie seems to give the impression that schizophrenia can be cured – or at least lessened – with simple understanding, regardless of the latent violent tendencies of those that suffer from it. Medication is there for a reason, and it bothers me that this is dismissed as an option throughout the film. Call me insensitive or unable to relate, but that’s my opinion.
But take my opinion with a grain of salt. If you like these human interest dramas that focus on character revelation and some development rather than a plot that pushes forward with change and discovery, then you’ll enjoy “The Soloist.” But if you’re a cynical bastard like myself… you’ll want to watch something cool, like “Monsters vs. Aliens” again.