If you haven’t already seen The Soloist, a quick read of its synopsis will give you a fair idea of what to expect. It tells the story of a gifted musician, whose promising career is wrecked by mental illness, which results in him becoming homeless, busking for small change. Through a chance meeting with an LA Times journalist, he forms a new friendship, and his life begins to take a slightly different direction.
Yes, it’s one of those movies that was almost certainly commissioned with the idea of picking up a few Oscars, especially with Jamie Foxx playing the role of the troubled musician. Indeed, his performance is pretty much faultless, and you can tell he did his research if you watch interview footage with the real Ayers. Foxx convincingly captures the man’s mannerisms and his unpredictable state of mind.
However, in spite of the most Oscar worthy role going to Foxx, The Soloist – contrary to introduction above – is really about the journalist Steve Lopez, played by Robert Downey Jr. The film is based on his book and columns about his relationship with Ayers, and is thus more about his own perceptions of his subject and his own personal life. Although Downey Jr does a commendable job, it has to be said that Mr Lopez’s life really isn’t all that interesting, and it’s a little uncomfortable watching a middle-class white man showing off his liberal credentials by essentially exploiting a homeless man.
As it happens, there were no Oscars for The Soloist or its cast, which is probably about right, because, while it’s certainly a reasonably competent movie and a decent way to pass a couple of hours on a long commute, it’s not particularly compelling. Foxx is convincing but not that interesting, as Ayers is largely drawn as a two-dimensional nutcase. Downey Jr, meanwhile, is lumbered with a kindly but rather dull lead that does its job and nothing more. That possibly sounds overly negative, because it’s not a bad film. It’s just not as good as you might expect.
If you wait until 3rd March, you can rent it from the iTunes store (no price given at the time of writing), but at the moment, it’s only available to buy for £10.99, which is simply too expensive for a film that you’re probably never going to watch more than once.
It’s not a particularly cinematic movie, so you won’t lose much by watching it on an iPhone screen, although if you’re easily affected by weepies, you might want to avoid watching it in public. In that case, like all the movies we’ve reviewed here, you can watch it on iTunes on a computer monitor or TV – the resolution and bit-rate is acceptable, being roughly about the same quality as VHS.
The Soloist is available from the iTunes store.