The Soloist Joe Wright

The Soloist Joe Wright
I'm not quite certain why The Soloist didn't grab me like it should have, but it didn't. The new Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) effort is based on the true story of Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), a Los Angeles Times writer who profiles Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a mentally handicapped (likely schizophrenic) homeless man who just happens to be a brilliant cellist. The success of the articles inspires widespread sympathy and support for Nathaniel, which in turn motivates Lopez to try to help him further. However, Lopez quickly discovers that Nathaniel reacts negatively to any form of psychological treatment and seems to regress further into mental instability when medical attention is thrust upon him. During its not-especially-successful theatrical run, The Soloist was sold as a feel-good tearjerker about how music and friendship can conquer all but the actual film is a different beast: generally downbeat and fairly honest in depicting the probable ramifications of its characters' actions. A confident director when working with corsets, Joe Wright seems unsure of whether to approach the material as gritty urban drama, sentimental Oscar bait or something more stylish. (His attempts at stylistic touches, especially a Fantasia-like scene where abstract colours blink on and off to orchestral music, are uniformly ill-advised.) Still, as a purveyor of middlebrow drama, he gets the job done: The Soloist is well acted, nicely paced, competently mounted and features a story that's never less than interesting. But frankly, it lacks emotional resonance, although perhaps that's unavoidable for an honest treatment of this story — it would be impossible for Downey and Foxx to have much chemistry, and Foxx's character is so introverted that he naturally shuts the audience out. Is The Soloist a successful movie? Yes and no. Extras include a chatty commentary by Wright, a making-of doc and a fascinating but too-brief interview with the real Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers. (Paramount)