The Soloist

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 August, 2009, 12:00am

The Soloist
Robert Downey Jnr, Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener
Director: Joe Wright

Based on Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez's real-life friendship with schizophrenic musician Nathaniel Ayers, The Soloist boasts two powerful performances from Robert Downey Jnr (as Lopez) and Jamie Foxx (as Ayers), whose nuanced portrayals reveal two individuals struggling to connect with people outside their own worlds.

Foxx's task is comparatively easier as all he needs do is channel his Juilliard-educated but homeless character's idiosyncratic thinking and speech patterns. Downey Jnr faces a bigger challenge as he's required to reflect the troubled psyche of a hack who on the surface seems to be fine.

The film spices up the proceedings by turning the real Lopez, a happily married, regular guy, into a cynical divorc?e who answers to his ex-wife, editor Mary Weston (Catherine Keener), at work, and finds his creativity stifled at every turn.

It's fortunate the actors have equipped themselves well because it's largely through their efforts that The Soloist connects with the viewer. However, director Joe Wright doesn't seemed to have understood how to portray Lopez's experiences so well and allows The Soloist to drift along a myriad of threads. Interweaving flashbacks provide details about Ayers' life but hardly up the emotional ante, while sequences which highlight Lopez's stressful existence at work (including a scene where he marches through a hectic newsroom) and in private (his taut exchanges with Weston) are not nuanced enough. The writers' own tribulations quickly give way to his mission to return Ayers to where he believes the musician belongs.

But The Soloist is a visual marvel: not just thanks to the two leads' performances, but also due to their interactions throughout a variety of locations in the City of Angels, whether it's beside menacing freeways or within the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where Ayers takes his first, tentative steps back towards fulfilling his musical talent through a trial with Esa Pekka-Salonen's Los Angeles Philharmonic. Though flawed in parts, The Soloist still manages to carry a tune throughout.

Extras: Feature-length commentary from Joe Wright; featurette on the real Lopez and Ayers; making-of featurette; deleted scenes; a short on services for the homeless in Los Angeles.