Film Reviews

THE SOLOIST

By • Apr 29th, 2009 •

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Downey is taking his “greatest actor of his generation” tag too seriously.

I dreaded this movie. How many times have we seen it? Another movie about a homeless man who is (a) a savant (b) a world famous boxer (c) a loveable wise man or (d) a brilliant musician? Does every homeless person deserve a movie?

Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) is a Los Angeles Times reporter who works under his ex-wife (Catherine Keener), who is still madly in love with him. Again, we all know this is in a star’s contract. Keener gazes at him as if he set the moon.

Why?

All we know about Lopez is that he’s an indulged reporter who is estranged from his college-age son. He writes ponderous front-page stories about L.A. life. Not able to maintain a relationship with his son, a woman, or have any friends, Lopez decides to rehabilitate a crazy homeless man, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx). And his lovesick ex-wife doesn’t even see the irony in this.

Bored after a bicycle accident, artistically banged-up Lopez chats up Ayers in front of a Beethoven statue across the street from his office. Let’s face it: these are the type of stories that win Pulitzers and garner ’60 Minutes’ profiles, books and movies. We know it. Lopez knows it.

Because Ayers went to Julliard for a year, Lopez wants to tell his story and rescue him from mental illness. Lopez writes a column on Ayers and an old lady sends her cherished cello to the Times for Ayers. But, Lopez has to arrange for a place for Ayers to store and play the cello. So Lopez goes into the world of the homeless. He starts hanging out.

In another insult to his phantom, neglected son, Lopez arranges for a concert cellist to give Ayers lessons and gets him an apartment! He doesn’t get him a shower, girlfriend, or take away his bulging cart of junk.

Lopez becomes involved with the shelter that provides for thousands of men and women who need help and medication. Why not put these people to work sweeping the shelter or combing their hair?

Paired with the shock of the homeless environment, the director, Joe Wright, gives us the LSD world of music as experienced by Ayers.

Downey cannot convey the inner reason why Lopez wanted to rehabilitate Ayers. He doesn’t even seem to like him. If, at least once, someone told him this would make a good book, at least we would have a sincere motivation to follow. Because, Lopez learns nothing, gains nothing, and doesn’t even like classical music.

Thank goodness Foxx doesn’t play stupid or naïve. In fact, Lopez is an annoying pest.

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