Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Soloist

The Soloist

 

  • Released Internationally on 24/04/09
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 30/09/09

 

In a nutshell

Steve Lopez is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. One day he bumps into an unusual street act – an eccentric homeless man with hints of musical greatness. He delves deeper, and the friendship that forms between them changes both their lives in subtle but significant ways.

The real Steve Lopez

The two main characters in this tale are real and this story happened a few years ago in Los Angeles. After a series of columns chronicling his encounters, Steve Lopez published a book, on which this screenplay is based. The man we’re presented with doesn’t aspire to any great nobility or selflessness – he’s after a good story. But as he returns to the homeless man’s haunts again and again for the next chapter of his story, he can’t help being drawn in and trying to help bring this man’s life back on track. What he slowly realises, however, is that not all change is good, or desired.

The real Nathaniel Ayers

Nathaniel is quite a sight. With a patchwork wardrobe and all his possessions in one shopping cart, he roams the streets, taking in the sights and sounds of LA, but never leaving the world of his own. His pressure of speech reveals a turbulent flow of thought, genius and anxiety going through his head. In brief flashbacks we learn how a childhood dedicated to music quickly revealed a talent far beyond his peers, and how he was ushered out of his parent’s poor neighbourhood and into one of the country’s finest music schools. Then the voices started, and all alone in a big city Nathaniel is slowly driven from the road of musical concentration, and out of his apartment. He’s scared to return home, for fear of the voices returning, and a homeless man is born.

The real LA

Filmed on location in Los Angeles, the film makes extensive use of the real location nicknamed Skid Row, ‘home’ to a huge community of homeless people, and a hub of social outcasts and problems. Driven by his curiosity and work, Lopez ventures deep into this scary landscape, and slowly earns Nathaniel’s trust whilst keeping him among the structures he’s come to call home. The film doesn’t do LA any favours, but is a harsh reminder of the often unseen horrors that exist in even the most lauded cities.

Who’s in it?

The resurgence of Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin, Iron Man, Tropic Thunder) continues with his portrayal of Steve Lopez. At times unlikeable, at times confused, but ultimately passionate and with past hurts of his own, he provides the average man that the audience can relate to. Sadly far from average is the man racked by schizophrenia, brought to life convincingly by Jamie Foxx (Ray, Collateral). The usual Foxx image is quickly forgotten thanks to a combination of hair, makeup and pained acting. The always interesting Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich, Capote) is Lopez’s ex-wife, editor, and point of reference. Sitting in the director’s chair is Joe Wright, who already has two gems under his belt – Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. He’s possibly to blame for the erratic editing and filming that proves unsettling through most of the film, and ultimately holds the film down.

In the end

It’s hard to pick out anything wrong with The Soloist, but there’s something in the final product that doesn’t gel as well as it should. Which is a pity, because with such a good story, and two such fine actors, this could have been something truly great.

 

Mark7

 

Trailer:

http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/thesoloist/ (High-res QuickTime)

 

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