Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Soloist

Because of my wife's impending Comps I decided to be chivalrous and let her choose the movie of the week. I was campaigning hard for State of Play, and she seemed interested at first, but ultimately she fell under the sway of the brilliant loon Jaimie Foxx. Now in my book you can't ever go wrong with Robert Downey Jr. but something about this movie just didn't interest me. Ultimately I blame the trailers they were terrible. They were overdramatic and pandered too much for Oscar consideration. But as I walked out of the theatre I discovered that I really enjoyed the movie much more than I thought I would. It is definitely the best film so far for Director Joe Wright, at least in my book. It's half bio-pic and half social awareness film. The movie deals with Psychosis and homelessness and the detrimental effects of thousands of people living in poverty on the streets of LA.Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) hears classical music coming from behind a statue of Beethoven. He discovers a homeless man, Nathanial Ayers (Jamie Foxx) playing a violin on two strings. Lopez strikes up what one could call a conversation with the very intelligent but frenetic musician. Lopez takes a liking to him as he sets out to write a human interest story. Ayers attended Julliard but over time became lost in a sea of paranoia and madness. They become friends, in a sense, as Steve tries to help Nathanial to find his way off the streets and back into his musical career.The premise is pretty cut and dried. Lopez tries to understand this extremely gifted homeless man and how he could have ended up on the streets. Honestly it reminded me a lot of the Fisher King. Which is a far better film by the way. If you haven't seen it go and rent it. Directed by Terry Gilliam starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges. If you want to see a decent into madness, you won't find a better film than the Fisher King. The homeless shelter scenes, in the Soloist, I thought brought out the best elements of the film. You had some real characters in there but all felt true to life and I think it was a powerful thing to see. Also the performances from Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx were excellent, especially Downey with his sarcastic banter that never gets old. I also loved Catherine Keener, as Steve's ex-wife and editor, even though they didn't give her enought screen time. She was mostly relegated to holding the kleenex for Downey when he couldn't deal with Nathanial's unwillingness to help himself. The main problem I had with the film was the execution of the flashbacks and the directors attempt to crawl inside Nathanial's deranged mind. Both were awkward attempts. And even though there were quite a few scenes that I felt were overly melodramatic I didn't think the Director was trying to make a cookie cutter film. I won't give away the ending but I appreciate that he didn't have Steve solve all of Nathanial's problems for him or that Nathanial had some kind of quick happy ending recovery at the end. It was realistic and it got the point across about these two men and how they inspire each other.Tamar of course loved the movie--I think it's because she's a sucker for classical music--which they play throughout the film. Speaking of music they played a horrible version of Mr. Bojangles by Neil Diamond in the film. I don't ever remember hearing this version before and I think I realize why. Ugh, it just makes me cringe thinking about Neil D doing his talky croon thing mangling the life out of that great song. Now you would think a movie about musical inspiration would avoid putting a song this bad in their film. Nevertheless it was funny watching Robert Downey trying to dance to it. So if you can't get into Wolverine this coming weekend this is a nice drama with Downey in full on, "charm the pants off" mode. Plus there is a great scene where he's trying to get rid of a groundhog--I think my friend Q should take some notes for her Mom.

Grade: 3 Buckets


Quinn said...

Oh how right you are....

Speck said...

Of course it was realistic....its a true story that is VERY recent.

Steve and Nathaniel visited the set a couple times. I did all the stuff inside the Disney Concert hall and some of the 2nd unit.

I was very proud to have worked on this movie, and I enjoyed it, but yes its not perfect. Both the director and the DP are genuinely good people who I would work for any day.