I'll be honest: I had concerns. I signed up to review Joe Wright's third film, The Soloist, last summer. Then the film's late-fall, Oscar-buzz release slot was bumped up into the fallow month of April to allow the studio to focus its award campaigning on other (better?) movies; in the movie biz, we call that a Bad Omen. And then came the trailer, itself loaded with so much sugary sweetness and saccharine sentimentality, the prospect of sitting through the full two-hour movie began to seem nauseating.
I needn't—and shouldn't—have worried. Wright—who previously directed a masterful adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and the bewitching Atonement—has arrived at the point where he can officially be moved out of the Promising Young Filmmakers camp and into the Great Filmmakers camp. Stated simply: The Soloist is a remarkable movie. And the move to April turns out to be a blessing; this is a small, intimate kind of movie that deserves to be cradled and cherished, not slathered in crass award-show buzz and industry politics.
And that sugar-sweet trailer? Well, you can't blame me for being worried. The story seems like a catalyst for pure schmaltz. Robert Downey, Jr. stars as Steve Lopez, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Jamie Foxx is Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless, mentally challenged street musician and Julliard dropout. You can fill in the rest—or at least you might think you can: Yes, Steve meets Nathanial. Yes, he becomes quite taken with him, and begins writing columns about his unusual story. Yes, the humble shames the proud, and Lopez finds his life forever changed because of his encounters with Nathaniel.
But not so fast: This isn't that kind of movie. You know, the kind where the central character ...1
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