Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just Another Stop on the Robert Downey Jr. "Comeback" Tour

Admittedly, this post should have probably have been written months ago when The Soloist was still creating Oscar hype prior to its release and ultimate flop at the box office (the movie only made back half of its $60M budget). But I didn't get to see it until tonight, and I figure it's better late than never (which is actually sort of a recurring theme in the movie). It follows the true story of writer Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) as he tries to help Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a once promising cellist that is now homeless on the streets of L.A. Eventually, Lopez helps Ayers to get his life headed back in the right direction, but it's a difficult journey.

The coolest part about this movie is that it's based on a true story, and the real-life Steve Lopez has been able to use it (and the book its based off of) as a springboard to actually help homeless people. You can find out more here. The movie has other qualities. Downey Jr. (whose comeback is now only one by name -- the comeback is over; he's here to stay) and Foxx (who is one of the most all-around talented men in America) give truly great performances. And despite the uplifting nature of the tale, the script doesn't try to force inspirational moments when they don't exist. It also does a good job exploring the mental illness Foxx's Ayers suffers from and provides viewers with a series of flashbacks that let us dive even deeper into who Ayers is and where he came from.

But in the end, the movie itself is just OK. Despite direction from Joe Wright (whose book-to-film adaptations of Atonement and Pride and Prejudice were both done very well in this blogger's opinion) and the aforementioned performances of Foxx and Downey Jr., the plot ultimately left me feeling that the story had yet to really reach its conclusion, and I was expecting it to go on for another 20 or 30 minutes. It easily could have created the room for these minutes too. By getting rid of some of the unnecessarily long musical montages where not much happens (including one 2+ minute scene of randomly colored lights that made me feel like I was watching Disney's Fantasia) or the poorly executed subplot concerning Downey Jr.'s Lopez and his ex-wife (played by The 40 Year Old Virgin's Catherine Keener) that doesn't really give us enough material to get a true feel of the problems in their relationship or why we should care if they ever get back together, the movie could have been much more cohesive and whole.

Bottom line: I'd say it's worth a watch but not a buy. No reason you can't wait until it comes to HBO. (B-)

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