Do you ever watch a film and find yourself thinking “this was made at the wrong time” or “the wrong guy had his hands all over this”? Oh, you don’t? That’s just me? Okay, my bad. Nevertheless, there are two things inherently wrong with the musically inclined, 2009 drama, ‘The Soloist’. We will get to those in a minute. First, let me tell you a little about it.
‘The Soloist’ is a delicate, heartfelt story of an unlikely friendship between a homeless cello prodigy, Nathaniel Ayers, (Jamie Foxx) and a bourgeois LA Times journalist, Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr). As Steve makes a sensational story out of gifted musician Nathaniel, he meanwhile tries his best to improve the man’s life for the better by getting him off the streets and giving him proper medical care. If you’re looking for a nice, cuddle-up-on-the-couch, lazy Friday night flick, you’re in luck!
Back to what went wrong with ‘The Soloist’,though. I got two problems with this film and a b*tch ain’t one! The first is that I believe it was made at the wrong time. If this film were made in today’s cinematic climate, coming on the heels of the relatively impactful music-film uprising following pictures like ‘Jersey Boys’, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, ‘Get on Up’, and of course, ‘Whiplash’, then I believe it would have been more widely accepted. The second problem with ‘The Soloist’ was the director, Joe Wright. At the time, the British filmmaker happened to be a rather vogue commodity, after success with ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and ‘Atonement’. The issue I have with Wright is that he got carried away, he sprinkled his magic Hollywood stardust on an interesting story and turned ‘The Soloist’ into a cheap production, with mainstream, lovey-dovey tropes and motifs.
This should not have been a Disney-fied (that’s a word, ok) heart warmer, but instead a raw, music-driven, emotionally dark piece, void of celebrity influence. Frankly, I think ‘The Soloist’ would have been better had it come from the indie arthouse. That is not to detract from Downey Jr. and Foxx for their brilliant work; the pair were actually quite spectacular. It was simply the entire tone of the movie that felt so completely off. The whole way through, I watched in horror thinking “what are these guys doing to this film”.
I desperately wanted ‘The Soloist’ to be good. But in the end, it just wasn’t the masterpiece it could so easily have been turned into, with a bit of patience and humility. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but given the sheer potential of a wonderfully written story, I was indubitably bummed to leave this picture unsatisfied. Maybe you will like it. Maybe you are more open to a clichéd story of friendship. Unfortunately, I am not so forgiving.
Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr