The Soloist gives a stellar performance but not much rhythm.  

I have noticed over the years that, like music, movies need to have a rhythm in order to truly work. Maybe not a rhythm you hear but one you certainly must feel. I first realized this a few years back in a phenomenal film called Little Miss Sunshine. When I asked the filmmakers about this rhythm they told me that they had used certain drum beats throughout and had focused as much on the rhythm as they did on the look of the film. Did it work? Considering it was one of the highest nominated films in 2007 I would guess, yes. 

The Soloist needed this inner rhythm but instead relied mainly on the solo performances of its two lead actors. This makes for well played out scenes but there is nothing to mold them fluidly together; producing a choppy film full of staccatos and no syncopation. The script is based on the book written by LA Times columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.). It is the true account of his friendship with a homeless man named Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx). Lopez discovered Ayers playing a busted up violin in the park then after a little investigating he soon learns that Ayers was a student of Julliard School of Music until a mental breakdown forced him to life on the streets.  This is a wonderful story and I am sure the book makes for a truly decent read. Just not so sure it maid the transition to the big screen. It is hard to chronicle such a friendship as theirs in 190 minutes. We see Lopez as he deals with the homeless crisis and does all he can to try and help Ayers. What he has to come to terms with is that often, so says the story, the best you can offer someone that is schizophrenic is just your time and friendship. Lopez wants to fix the situation and get Ayers back on the concert stage. It is not a possible task as Lopez soon finds out. Along the way he has to also examine his own life and destination. 

The film makers seem to have built their movie on the foundation of RDJ and Foxx. Both guys knock it out of the park but never seem to be playing on the same team. I can sense them soloing these performances like a symphony audition instead of listening to each other and making it an unparalleled duo. This is the main thing that throws off the rhythm and may cause them to lose out in the end.  The Soloist is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language. It is a mature film in how it deals with the homeless issue and shows their existence in stark display. There is not much that a young person 16 and under could grab onto in this film. The trailer is a little deceptive in its depiction of the focus of this project. They do a nice bait and switch with some of the scenes you see.

That said I do think that if you go into it knowing what to expect you can take many things from it. Those who are content with acting alone will find this a perfect film I am sure. I just wanted a little more. I give The Soloist 3 out of 5 bass clefs. Neither the musician nor the film lover in me walked away very satisfied.  

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com) (4/22/09)

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Review copyright 2009 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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