“The Soloist” is the true-life story of LA Times reporter Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) who discovers and helps a schizophrenic and former Julliard cellist (Jamie Foxx) living on the streets of the City of Angels. The film, directed by Joe Wright (“Atonement”), features a lead character tormented by multiple voices in his head. Likewise, we can hear the multiple voices going on in the film’s head. Here are some samples:
Foxx: “Didn’t Geoffrey Rush win an Oscar for this?” Downey: “I’m playing the burnt out middle-aged guy seeking his one moment of redemption. I should do my best to look like George Clooney.”
Wright and director of photography Seamus MacGarvey: “Remember how we over-sugared the images in “Atonement”? This time, let’s over-dry out the images of Los Angeles. I mean, we want to make Janusz Kaminski wince.“
Screenwriter Susannah Grant: “A woman! He needs a woman to bring him out of his insanity! No. that’s been done. A cello!” (Yes, I know it’s a real story.) Downey: “Wait, wait, wait! I’m the sane guy. So why does the crazy homeless guy keep making wardrobe changes while I’m stuck in the same clothes in every scene?” Catherine Keener: “The kinda kooky ex-wife? Yeah, I can do that.”
Wright: “Hey Mr. Newspaper Film Critic! Notice how we threw in those little asides about the sad decline of the newspaper industry? Did you see how we even went so far as to have one staff member being escorted out after being fired, thus acknowledging and sympathizing with your precarious employment situation? It’s because we respect you, and we salute your service in the face of this injustice. And rest assured, it has nothing to do with us sucking up for good reviews. Honest.”
Wright: “More extras! More colors for the light show! More …. Three-ring binders for Downey’s desk!” I mean seriously, there’s never been a reporter with that many binders and government documents spewed across his desk. I should know. I once was competitive for the world record.
This is a film with too many things on its desk –too many actors on its streets, too many people in the newsroom – and not enough things in its heart. So all that’s left is Downey’s taut performance; had this film been released during Oscar season as originally planned, Downey would have set some sort of record for performances that were better than the rest of the film. Yet it’s far from being able to save this sad tune of a film. This is the type of film that gets too many Gentleman Cs, and I just wouldn’t let it off the hook.