The Soloist (M)

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Review byMatthew Turner24/09/2009

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 117 mins

Disappointing, over-long and over-directed Oscar-bait drama that's further hampered by a trying-too-hard performance from Jamie Foxx, though the always-excellent Robert Downey Jr. ensures that it remains just about watchable.

What's it all about?
Based on a true story and directed by Joe Wright, The Soloist stars Robert Downey Jr. as Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, who's struggling with his job in the wake of a motorbike accident that's left him with mild concussion. One night, he encounters Nathaniel (Jamie Foxx), a homeless guy playing violin in the street, and decides to write a story about him, after discovering that he's a schizophrenic who used to be a Julliard-trained cellist.

As he digs deeper into his background, Lopez forms a tentative friendship with Nathaniel and decides to help rehabilitate him. He finds him a community centre apartment and secures him lessons with a cello master (Tom Hollander), but as the time approaches for Nathaniel to perform with an orchestra, Lopez realises he may have underestimated the extent of his friend's schizophrenia.

The Good
The always-excellent Downey Jr. is on fine form here and there's also strong support from Catherine Keener as Lopez's colleague and ex-wife – their scenes together are actually more entertaining than the main plot.

The Bad
The film's biggest problem is a trying-too-hard performance from Foxx (perhaps scenting another disability-based Oscar), who gets so caught up in an accurate portrayal of schizophrenia that he loses sight of the character's personality and it's hard to really care about him as a result. In addition, the film drags painfully in the middle section and is at least 25 minutes too long, thanks to a rambling script that somehow feels the need to include a sequence where Lopez gets covered in raccoon piss (don't ask).

On top of that, Wright gets carried away with ideas of visually representing Nathaniel's point-of-view and several sequences are badly over-directed, though a lengthy 2001-inspired kaleidoscope sequence does actually work and deserves credit for sheer chutzpah alone. The film also deserves points for resisting an overly sentimental climax, though it has plenty of sugary, supposedly tear-jerking and nakedly Oscar-baiting moments along the way.

Worth seeing?
Downey Jr. is on good form, but The Soloist is ultimately disappointing thanks to a rambling script and an unengaging central performance from Foxx.

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Content updated: 20/11/2019 14:14

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