The Soloist is a beautifully crafted film.
Robert Downey, Jr. is, as always, wonderful as LA Times columnist Steve Lopez. There is something about his own well worn face and expressive eyes that imbues his portrayal with a truth that another actor would not have been able to bring. The script does not gloss over Lopez’s flaws and turn him into a refugee from a TV Movie of the Week, and all of those flaws are visible thanks to RDJ’s performance.
Jamie Foxx, in my humble opinion, proves that "Ray" was not a fluke of casting. Even more than his nearly note-perfect portrayal of Ray Charles, his Nathaniel Ayers, Jr. says this man is a truly multi-faceted actor. (Frankly I hope more people see The Soloist and reach that conclusion. It might help his next scheduled release "Law Abiding Citizen.")
I think in the hands of director without the deft touch of Joe Wright, this could have been heavy handed, treacly, feel-good pap. Despite the fact that this is a true story, the audience is allowed to go on Lopez’s journey with him. No one is holding up flashcards and telling the viewer what to feel next.
Here’s what I want to know: What the hell happened to this film’s marketing campaign? (Or I should say the lack thereof). It was pushed back twice and finally released in April of this year with almost no press and was quickly forgotten. That usually means it’s crap. In fact, it sends the message that it’s crap and the studio behind it (in this case that’s studios plural) has no faith in their product. I’ve heard rumblings that the scheduled release last Fall (which would have put it in awards contention) was nixed because of the country’s economic downturn, and who wants to see a movie about homeless people? Are we really that fragile? This movie deserved to be in awards contention, probably at least as much, if not more than some that were.
The argument could be made that with the expansion of the Best Picture category to ten slots that it has a better chance this year. The April release date, however, is probably still a handicap. And it would be a damn shame if this were overlooked. Foxx, Downey,Jr. and Wright all deserve consideration.