The Soloist

We’re suckers for feel-good tales about the redemptive power of music, but that’s not what this filme is. The story of an LA Times columnist who befriends a homeless black street musician, who turns out to be a mentally ill Julliard dropout, is far from facile.  The film provides a gritty, realistic view of people living on the street– a world rarely seen by most of us, outside of crisis situations like Hurricane Katrina (which, ironically, appears on several TV screens during the movie).  The film is also realistic about what it is possible to achieve with the long-term mentally ill, where progress must be measured in millimeters. There are fine performances by Robert Downey, Jr., who has had his own experiences with life’s underside, and Jamie Foxx, understated and surprisingly effective as the homeless guy. And it’s quite a leap forward for British director Joe Wright, whose previous big screen efforts (Atonement and Pride and Prejudice) were stylized costume dramas featuring Keira Knightly. This film, once heralded as an Oscar candidate for 2008, was unceremoniously dumped in theaters in early 2009 and didn’t find much of an audience.  It deserves better.

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