The Soloist

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Downey in a Downer

With Robert Downey Jr most recently portraying men of iconic or superhero status (Sherlock Holmes, Iron Man), I thought it would be a nice change to watch him play the real-life LA Times reporter Steve Lopez
in The Soloist.

The Soloist is based on a book (stemming from Lopez’s column) in which Lopez chronicles his friendship and time spent with Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Jr, an accomplished Juilliard alum who succumbs to schizophrenia and ends up on the streets of Los Angeles.

I’ll be honest, I was hoping for a feel-good movie here. I was hoping for a personal message born from heavy social issues that says “It will all be alright in the end.” What I got instead was mostly a downer of a film, filled with an irritating sense of self-gratification on Lopez’s part, and the familiar and overwhelming feeling that the problem of homelessness is too big and vast for one person to tackle.

Downey Jr gives a complex, layered performance that still failed to endear me to Lopez. His relationship with Ayers is largely for his own good – material for his column, an attempt at redemption after screwing up so many other aspects of his own life. Even in the final scene, Lopez appeases his conscience by saying that if he couldn’t change Ayers’ life, at least he changed his own.

Jamie Foxx disappears into his role as Ayers and delivers a strong performance not unlike his turn as another real-life musical virtuoso, Ray Charles. I also enjoyed Catherine Keener as Downey Jr’s ex-wife and editor at the Times.

The homeless issue in America will hardly be remedied by hoping for the message (as I did with this movie) that “It will all be alright in the end.” But as entertainment goes, I want more than I would expect from a documentary or political speech – I want a little light, a little hope, the sense that maybe there is something I can do. I got none of that from The Soloist, only two hours of a story without end.

Motherly advice: The PG-13 rating is for language (of which there is a moderate amount), thematic elements and drug use (many of the scenes take place in Skid Row, and images are disturbing). The movie is fine for children 13 and older, though they are likely to be bored by the heavy nature of the story.
Stacey Nerdin-Solely Depressed
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