Starring:Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hollander, Catherine Keener
Director: Joe Wright
Writer(s): Susannah Grant, Steve Lopez
Original Score:Dario Marianelli
Running Time: 117 Mins.
From the upper classes of England with Pride & Prejudice and Atonement to the slum’s of Los Angeles, the setting fro The Soloist, Joe Wright never really seemed like the right director to tackle such a landscape, let alone a story so close to that place’s heart, however hidden it may have once been. But contrary to my initial doubts Wright has delivered and then some, The Soloistis not showy as the studios aiming for Oscar glory clearly wanted people to believe and nor is it a buddy movie as the marketer’s decided to pitch it as, more a character study and portrait of what it is to live with both schizophrenia and in the under-belly of L.A. all to often forgotten about amongst the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
Some director’s have a knack for making there location breathe, and by that I mean make it real, more than just a “place” where their character’s interact, Wright as it happens is just one of those few who are capable of such a feat, whether it be in the Disney Concert Hall or the homeless shelters, each scene has a dynamic that sets you apart from feeling like you are just watching, you feel immersed and in doing that the greatest and hardest goal in film-making is achieved. It helps that many of the extras are actually homeless Los Angelian’s and in using them a level of authenticity is gained, however Wright manages to set us apart so you do not end up feeling as though you are watching a documentary.
This is achieved largely through a very strong set of visuals, a handful of scenes could quite easily smacked of being showy or unneccessary but they are what punctuate through the sometimes very harrowing and despairing moments, one particular scene follows a flock of birds through flood tunnels and up into the sky above skyscrapers, while another shows flashes of colour going off into the distance, both of these are set to the most prominent pieces of classical music in the film, one from Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) point of view and one from Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jrs.).
Interestingly both actors downplay their parts to perfection, Foxx in particular could quite easily have over-done his portrayal of the schizophrenic Ayer’s, while Downey Jr. is typically excellent in yet another role showing his range and Oscar worthiness, it is great to see him spread his talent from Iron Man to this via Tropic Thunder and proves he is still equally as capable as lager than life characters and much more subtle and nuanced human turns, in fact this may just be his best yet.
Despite the relationship not being in the “buddy” category, or certainly not in the traditional sense of the word, it is a film about friendship, and the bonds that can form, there is no anterior motive for Lopez to befriend Ayer’s, yes he has a column to write but it’s not about that as to why he befriends him, there are no easy answers to be found in The Soloist and certainly there is no big fairy-tale or feel good ending, neither upbeat nor downbeat the soloist offers us a film about life itself and most specificslly what a friendship can mean to someone regardless of their place in society.
Combining a film about friendship with a look at the homeless contingency of L.A. may not sound like much of a treat, but in the deft hand’s of Joe Wright you will find a truly heartfelt film in The Soloist and one that really will open your eyes and make you feel, a feat not often achieved!