The problem with The Soloist is that it tries to hard. It tries to show how important the story that it’s telling is. And the thing about the story is that it doesn’t have to try, it has everything it needed. They had the material they need, these are real people, this is a true story, so let’s see it! Instead something about it comes off as forced. The emotions in it don’t flow naturally (through no fault of the actors), which make it feel like the Director is trying to manipulate you into thinking that his movie is more important or deeper than it is.
Jamie Fox, as the Nathaniel Ayers a schizophrenic musician who loses everything due to his disease, is amazing. You can feel and relate to everything his character is experiencing. He also wakes you up to some of the problems with our health system. A man like him does not deserve to be on the streets, he deserves help. My one problems, is that when you look at the pictures of the real Nathaniel I don’t know why Fox always wearing sparkly clothes. I guess that’s part of his interpretation?
Robert Downey Jr., as the journalist Steve Lopez who gets a story and a friend from Nathaniel, was convincing, but needed more substance. Downey seemed to underplay his role so much that is appeared as if he was trying to tone down the the over-emotional, in your facescreenplay, so that you could relate to his character. They over-do his “I want to be alone” speech so much, that it becomes a catch phrase. We get it, he likes being alone and doesn’t know how to take care of others, let’s get on with it. That being said, there are some moments in the film where you really see what an amazing actor Downey is. He’s one of those people who can turn almost anything into gold.
Catherine Keener is, as always, amazing. She is our connection to the story. She watchs Steve become obsessed with Nathaniel and looks at it much like the audience does. She is our eyes into the story as well as a plot device for Downey’s character. Every scene she is in she is extremely natural. She feels like the only REAL character in the movie.
The thing is, we know that Director, Joe Wright, likes to play with out emotions. Atonement, although great, left you with absolutely no hope. You can’t help but walk out of the theater feeling like life is shit and people are horrible. Wright is good at taking a painful story and giving you something intriguing to watch. It’s when you add in some hope that he has no idea what to do. This story starts out sad, but goodness does come from it, and the Director has no un-sappy way of showing us that. The painful moments were depressing but real. The joyful moments were so over the top and obvious, that no matter how much the actors down played them, everything just felt obvious and manipulative.
The thing is, not everyone is going to see this film. The teenagers are out (no way they can stop texting that long), the college crowd is busy with Wolverine, Star Trek, and Adventureland, so you can assume that the people going to see this film will be a “film-audience,” which means you don’t have to spell things out for them, and if you do need to add something, can’t you make it a little bit more subtle?
The film is in theaters now. Check it out if you want to see some great actors in an okay film.