Going Mobile: The Soloist (iTunes Review)
Looking for his next story Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), column journalist for the LA Times happens upon Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a homeless gentleman playing a two-stringed violin on the street. Pursuing the story his interactions with Ayers and further research lead him to discover that Ayers was a gifted musical prodigy and student of the prestigious Julliard music school, but also someone who suffers from a mental illness and is now living on the streets by choice. Lopez effectively takes on Ayers as a project, someone that he can help and feel good about, whilst also taking something back (the story) from the relationship. The crux of the story, the central drama in the form of human dilemma, is whether or not Lopez will go beyond the role established early on and become what Ayers needs most, a friend, someone whom he can depend upon.
Based on the book which Lopez wrote about Ayers and the relationship they developed, The Soloist is a relatively straightforward human drama piece which features solid performances from its leads and is helped along by its unwillingness to descend into tearjerker moments. The film is focussed almost entirely on the central relationship between the leads though beyond a few flashbacks to Ayers’ past and some brief moments between Lopez and his ex-wife there is very little additional insight into either of their lives as a whole. What is shared is purely done so to drive home Ayers condition or the premise that Lopez is reticent to take on a more responsible role in any relationship. There is also some emphasis on the greater issue of homelessness in L.A. and a rather unusual side-plot involving a raccoon problem that Lopez faces. The latter appears to have been thrown in there purely for laughs, and although it's a somewhat out of step addition, the humour is welcome in an otherwise extremely dry script.
Initially I was pleased that director Joe Wright was careful to avoid pushing forced emotional moments on the audience but as the film progresses through to its wholly predictable outcome I found myself hoping to be moved by something, but the film’s emotional beats are played so safe that I was left fighting back ambivalence rather than any tears. There is but one truly powerful scene in the film, and it comes very late in the game and sees the two leads in a confined space tackling a pivotal moment in the relationship their characters share. Like every other aspect of the film its handled with care and is an instance where the source material rises above and provides some true grit for us to appreciate and connect with. Unfortunately I did not feel that the relationship was developed enough outside of this moment for the inevitable outcome to ring true following what happens between the two, but like most of the film it’s easy enough to just go along with what is being composed on screen thanks to a general level of proficiency in all aspects of production.
In short, The Soloist is a competent drama with solid performances but one that is almost uniformly unexceptional and far too dry for its own good.
The Soloist is available to purchase now through the iTunes Store
The 1.6GB download gets you the film in 853x354 (2.40:1 Widescreen) encoded using AVC MPEG4. Audio is available in English Stereo and English DD5.1 Surround and when combined with the video presentation the end result is roughly DVD quality. You get 21 chapters but there are no extras included with the download nor are there any subtitles.