I almost didn’t watch this one as the Blockbuster nearby didn’t have a copy. We’ve been circling around the New Releases section twice and on to the older flicks aisles, and still couldn’t agree on something none of us had seen or wanted to watch. So my hubby and a couple of buddies of mine were close on settling on get this, Mama Mia!, but as we were about to check out, someone returned a copy of The Soloist, so after over a half hour at the rental store, we finally had something in our hands!
This is one of those movies that seemed to have all the necessary ingredients of an excellent movie. Talented actors, check. Skillful director, check. Engaging storyline based on a true story, check. Pardon me for setting my hopes high, but with talents like Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr., what else was I to expect? On top of that, we’ve got Joe Wright whose last two movies, Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, were critical darlings. But yet … well, I wish I could just stop there and say, it’s as melodious as the music Nathaniel Ayers plays with his violin, but the truth is, it’s rather underwhelming.
Foxx plays Nathaniel Ayers, a gifted musical prodigy who dropped out of the prestigious Juilliard School and ends up homeless in the streets of L.A. On the other side of his world is Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist, who runs into Ayers as he’s playing his two-stringed violin. After learning about his Juilliard connection, Lopez was inspired to find out why someone so gifted ended up on the streets. The two formed an unlikely friendship, although Lopez’s motive isn’t exactly altruistic at first as obviously Ayers’ life makes for a captivating column material.
Even though there are some touching scenes in the movie, somehow I just couldn’t connect with the story nor the characters. Even the flashback to Ayers’ childhood and his days at Juilliard battling his mental condition seemed a bit melodramatic but lacked real substance. If Wright’s purpose with this film were to understand what schizophrenia is about, I don’t think he did it justice. For sure this isn’t A Beautiful Mind, which is also inspired by a true story about a gifted man suffering from the same psychiatric disorder. Sure Ron Howard danced around the real facts about mathematician John Nash, but still it was a compelling movie that did more than occasionally tug our heartstrings.
One reviewer said this film had ‘far too many notes,’ and that’s exactly how I felt! Somehow I felt manipulated into feeling emotional and empathetic by Beethoven’s scores, as if I wouldn’t have felt it otherwise. Then there’s the psychedelic or kaleidoscopic images that’s supposedly Ayers ‘see’ whilst hearing music. I was okay with it for a brief seconds, but it went on and on endlessly that it became distracting and felt all too gimmicky.
This is British director Joe Wright’s first film in America, and I read that he was intrigued by the other side of glamorous L.A., where hundreds of homeless people find shelter each night, away from the the glitter of Hollywood. What a noble intention indeed, and some scenes in the LAMP community shelter did convey genuine concern about the issue of poverty we don’t often get to see in that city. I just wish Wright knew what he wanted the film to ultimately convey. All the beautiful harmony of the music and performances simply can’t propel the movie to hit the right note.
The film’s flaws aren’t the actors’ fault, however, they did their best with the materials they were given. Both of them are still watchable despite the overly sentimental journey of their characters. In fact, if it weren’t for Foxx and Downey, it probably wouldn’t even be worth the rental fee.
Did you see this film? What did you think?