The Soloist Directed by: Joe Wright Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener Running Time: 1 hr. 50 mins. Rating: PG-13
Plot: It's an unlikely duo as a Los Angeles Times columnist (Downey Jr.) goes looking for a story and connects deeply to his subject, a Julliard trained musician (Foxx), who is homeless.
Who’s It For? The younger crowd who is now addicted to Downey thanks to Iron Man, might not be ready for this one. It's a slower pace, with side notes about the homeless problem in L.A. and the death of newspapers.
Expectations: I had one concern ... this movie was supposed to come out last year in December. It was Oscar bait. So what happened? Otherwise, on paper, this movie should work well.
Actors: Robert Downey Jr. as Steve Lopez: What a relief. Downey can still lose himself in a character. After his blockbuster, you just didn't know. Downey has a newspaper man down; his role in Zodiac had to help. Being a columnist carries an arrogance or bravado and Downey wears it well. Notice how Steve doesn't pay attention to the downfall of the newspaper: he's oblivious to the firings. Score: 8
Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel Ayers: Schizophrenia is tough in films. Though Nathaniel never wants to be diagnosed, the film clearly shows he suffers from the mental illness. Foxx performs well, but the schizophrenia seems to come and go at the perfect moments. I only lost myself in his performance a few times. What didn't work for me was the flashbacks. It took away time for Steven and Nathaniel to connect. The running of the mouth was impressive, though. Score: 7
Catherine Keener as Mary Weston: I could have used more Mary. Her connection with Steve is always on the outside, just like the death of newspapers. Score: 7
Talking: Some of the best, heartfelt lines come from David (Nelsan Ellis), the social worker at the homeless center. Foxx, and his stream of consciousness, is impressive as well. For me (and my journalism background), I was happiest with Downey Jr. and his tape recorder, working for a story. Score: 6
Sights: There is one bold attempt director Wright takes with this film, it's the colors used to show music while the L.A. Philharmonic practices. It struck me that my Mac could have made a better, more well timed connection. Plus, you know someone is going to get a seizure from that. Everything else came off a little staged, even the real-life homeless people used in the film. Score: 5
Sounds: I have a tough time hearing the difference between Beethoven and Bach, but I know what sounds good. Beautiful music fills the screen, and after the acting it's the true highlight of The Soloist. Neil Diamond gets two songs here, "Mr. Bojangles," and "Forever in Blue Jeans." The rest of the music is just the classical variety. Score: 8
Best Scene: After Steve hands Nathaniel the cello, magic happens. I hadn't noticed it until this point in the movie, but this is the first time Steve takes a second and enjoys the moment. Nathaniel loses himself in the music and Steve (and us) are right there with him.
Ending: People grow, perhaps not exactly how it would have been expected. The ending is satisfying and I am impressed they didn't beat us over the head that this is "based on a true story."
Questions: Did you notice the two funniest moments of the film involved urine? And if 2008 was the year of Downey with Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, then what about 2009 with The Soloist and Sherlock Holmes?
Rewatchability: It doesn't cry out for a second viewing. I would have needed tears or more laughter to seek out another performance, but I could easily get sucked in if it was on TV.
How can you steer someone home if you don't know the way? That's the hook behind this unlikely duo. It occasionally hits a high note, and that's when Downey Jr. is involved.
Melodrama makes its way into this film on occasion (like with the flashbacks), and that separates it from greatness. At the end, the movie gives us statistics about the homeless situation in L.A. If a film truly wants to tackle such a difficult issue, it can't include Downey Jr. and Foxx. Those two are just too big, and too iconic to get completely lost in a heart wrenching subject like the way our homeless are discarded. But these two actors can absolutely show us the path of two individuals struggling with their lives, while desperately wanting to connect to something bigger.
Final Score: 7/10