The Soloist – Movie Review

I went into this film thinking two things. Either Wright would pull of what I thought to be the impossible, and have the film be somewhat remarkable. Or what I expected to happen, the film would fall flat on most levels and be quite the mess. However, after leaving the screening, I didn’t necessarily receive either of the aforementioned predictions. I was satisfied, that was for sure. Yet the film left me in somewhat of a strange mood. I was not angry, depressed, happy or anything. It was more of a state of suspended emotion, I wasn’t sure what to think.

Not that the film had a profound effect on me, there was just one part of it that left me… mesmerized, in awe completely. The scene is one of the most breathtaking and emotionally striking scenes I have seen. There is a moment in the film where Steve (Robert Downey Jr.) takes Nathaniel (Jamie Foxx) to see the London Philharmonic rehearse. Halfway through the scene, Nathaniel closes his eyes and all that we see are these colored ambient patterns moving across the screen to the sound of the music. What Nathaniel is envisioning as a result of the music is what we are able to see, it brings you straight into the mind of the character and is both brilliant and touching. That scene is still playing over and over in my head, and although I hate to say this, it was even somewhat reminiscent of Stan Brakhage.

The story behind The Soloist is a true one and even somewhat uplifting at times. It follows L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez as he attempts to write a story on an ex-Juillard student, Nathaniel Ayers. The film has a few moments that would normally be emotionally intriguing, but fail to conjure any real response out of the moments due to how it is played out. An example of this would be when Nathaniel leaves his house due to his schizophrenia. His sister (or mother, not quite sure) makes him soup and he is led to believe that it is hydro-chloric acid, he makes the sister (or mother) eat the soup so that he knows if he is being poisoned or not. The real blame in this scene is Joe Wright. The way it was shot in an immensely grim and dark atmosphere really took away from the overall effect. Yes, the event was disturbing, but it felt as if Wright was exploiting Nathaniel. Just as Steve does through most of the film, Wright made Nathaniel into his own little pawn in a game of scare tactics. When Nathaniel leaves, the scene becomes almost cheesey as his sister (or mother) yells at him, “Where will you sleep?!” He just walks away into an alley, thus alluding to his current state of homelessness. Most of the scenes are either hit or miss. There are also quite a few montages of the skid row area of Los Angeles. I have never been to the area, so I do not feel completely comfortable commenting on the authenticity, but even if how it was portrayed in the film is how it truly is, there was still no sense of realism to it.

I remember when discussing this movie with a friend at school earlier today, we decided that the driving force of the film would be Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Even if the writing and direction were a tad bit sloppy, if the performances of the two leading men were top notch, then the movie would still be good. Before I write out my thoughts on the performances I would like to say that I am quite pissed off that The Soloist was not released at its intented time. I’m interested as to whether or not Downey Jr. and Foxx would’ve been contenders come Oscar season, because in my opinion, they would have had a huge shot. Jamie Foxx has never really impressed me with his acting (albeit I have yet to see Ray) and Downey Jr. has never failed to impress me (yeah, I even saw Gothika), so this film was kind of a big deal to me for the two of them. Jamie Foxx, he can actually act. His portrayal of the mentally damaged yet brilliant musician, Nathanial Ayers, is the best performance of the year so far. From his mannerisms to his long drawn out rants, everything about Foxx’s performance seems authentic, something that the character would certainly do. And yes, he did not go full retard. Downey Jr. however did not have as much dramatic material to work with as Foxx did. Foxx was the true driving force for the dramatic scenes of the film, it seemed as if Downey Jr. was just there to mediate the conflicts. Downey Jr. was nothing short of remarkable though. Yet again, his wit and charm has earned him another fantastic performance.

Just like Zodiac, the memory of this film will have been long gone and faded come this year’s Oscar season. Although it’s a shame, I’m just glad that The Soloist will serve as one of the better films released in the first half of the year. Like I stated before, while it is nothing profound or horrible, it is a decent film and is able to continue the winning streaks of Joe Wright and Robert Downey Jr. I can see a lot of people on here liking it and also a lot of people hating it. However you interpret the film, I don’t see how someone could deny that the passion Foxx’s character has is nothing short of inspiring. This true story is one that should be seen by anyone that feels they are losing touch with what they have passion for. It has reinvigorated my passion of music and theatre.

Movie Rating: 7/10

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