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The Soloist
DVD disk
Jul 24, 2009 By: J.A. Hamilton
The Soloist order
Director:
Joe Wright

Actors:
Robert Downey Jr.
Jamie Foxx
Catherine Keener

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A journalist in search of a story stumbles upon a unique homeless man with a remarkable talent for playing both the violin and the cello. They build a shaky sort of friendship that ends up benefitting one as much as the other.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
THE SOLOIST is an interesting movie, and by interesting I mean there’s “something” there worth watching. The problem is, that “something” is buried beneath a slew of thematic elements all trying very hard to get an emotional response. And it shows. I liked it simply because I’m partial to the “writer’s journey” end of things. A writer’s curiosity will take him just about anywhere, and through doors most people don’t even know exist. Steve Lopez opened one of those doors, and before long became overwhelmed with helplessness when he realized he couldn’t just close it. This may not be what EVERYONE sees here, but that’s what caught my eye and kept me interested throughout.

The fact that Steve Lopez was played by Robert Downey Jr. helped out quite a bit. I’m a big Downey fan (and I’m not just hoping on the IRONMAN bandwagon here), from WEIRD SCIENCE all the way to the incredibly underrated KISS KISS, BANG BANG. Downey’s charisma is well suited in the shoes of a journalist, and I won’t take anything away from Jamie Foxx either as he mastered this role just as he mastered his instrument (of course, I DO miss his comedic side from gems like BOOTY CALL and BAIT). The drama was thick, the story moving, and if you’re a fan of orchestra type music you’ll find this flick even more rewarding.

Acting, score and story aside, I was more than a little annoyed with all the aerial shots of the expressways, the epileptic seizure inducing light show and the acid trip Jimmy Hendrix view mode that all came about during different jam sessions with Nathaniel. It would also have been nice to get a better understanding of Nathaniel’s psychosis and what caused his break. They tap dance around the issue with a couple flashbacks, but ultimately we learn nothing from them. I did enjoy the theme of friendship/do unto others which reminded me a lot of PAY IT FORWARD with a splash of AMERICAN BEAUTY mixed in for flavor.

I enjoyed THE SOLOIST for what it is, a touching dramatization of actual events which director Joe Wright and the real Steve Lopez hope will inspire us to reach out and consider (if not help) the homeless. I lived on Queen Street in downtown Toronto for three years and as a result saw my share of “interesting” street people. Sadly, most of the coherent ones are just “working the streets” for cash, while the not so coherent ones can be all too dangerous (I’ve seen both stabbings and beatings). Finding a middle ground can be tough business, and in my opinion should done by way of clinics like LAMP instead of Mr. Lopez’s “walk right up to them” approach.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by Director Joe Wright: He explains right off the bat that this is meant to be a deep, thinking movie (which makes me happy as that was my interpretation). It’s very cool to see they used the actual LA Times office for the film, it definitely adds to the appeal.

An Unlikely Friendship: Making The Soloist: A lot of the praise here is for the real Steve Lopez and his flare for writing which caught the eye of the production team. Steve was unsure about the book and movie ideas, which I find cool because it makes him seem more genuine.

Kindness, Courtesy and Respect: We get a peek at the real Steve and Nathaniel together as they reminisce about how their friendship came to be. The real Nathaniel looks a great deal more “there” and approachable than Foxx’s character, who was no doubt played up to look more sympathetic.

One Size Does Not Fit All: Addressing homelessness in Los Angeles: Here we find out that LA leads the nation in its number of homeless, emphasizing how serious the issue truly is. Lopez explains how the scene on Skid Row is almost impossible to describe. I believe it.

Beth’s Story: A two minute animated short about how easy it is to find yourself at rock bottom. Three words: Powerful. Moving. Scary.

Deleted Scenes: Nearly ten minutes of “filler material” that I can understand being cut, but something about the second one (audition) makes me think it should have stayed in.

Previews: There’s four trailers and a homeless awareness commercial featuring the real Steve Lopez.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
This flick’s heart is in the right place and with solid actors to back it up it’s not a hard watch by any stretch. I’m not gonna shower it in praise like the box does, but you could do a lot worse if your in the video store at five minutes to close with no other options. That said, it IS just a renty.

Extra Tidbit: I’m thinking LA’s Skid Row is infinitely more scary than they would have us believe. And a white boy like Downey would’ve no doubt been shived and rick rolled rather quickly.
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