Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Soloist

Jamie Foxx has come a long way from his days of playing Crazy George on Roc. The last several years for him have been nothing short of epic in scope.
The Soloist continues that stretch of top notch performances in prime roles (with the possible exception of Tubbs in Miami Vice from 2006, but everyone needs a big shallow paycheck once in a while) that have run the full gamut from hard-nosed staff sergeant to Motown legend.
Foxx is a musical genius named Nathaniel Anthony Ayers who has had "a few setbacks" and is living on the streets of L.A.
He is stumbled upon by Steve Lopez, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. Lopez is played by Robert Downey Jr., who is on a similar hot streak to Foxx's, but with less serious, but equally outstanding performances.
There is a dynamic chemistry between Foxx and Downey that fuels the whole film from the moment that Mr. Lopez starts to question Mr. Ayers near a Beethoven statue where Ayers is playing a violin with two strings. This mildly bizarre beginning takes Lopez into a world he hadn't imagined before this chance encounter.
Apparently, the film is a loose retelling of the real-life Lopez's experience writing a series of columns about Ayers, homelessness and mental illness.
The ending is not exactly a typical Hollywood wrap-up and may leave some audiences feeling incomplete, but this lack of neat-and-tidy is exactly what makes the ending so strong.
The strength of The Soloist is really in the performances, but the story itself should not be overlooked: a writer's fascination with his subject and an interesting study in what makes each of them tick.
Supporting roles by Catherine Keener, Nelsan Ellis, Stephen Root and an assortment of actual homeless citizens of L.A. round out the experience to make a solid movie into an outstanding movie.
In spite of some slow patches and a strange string of coyote urine references, this film is living up to the hype, and hopefully will not be forgotten by awards season.
The Soloist gets an A-.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

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