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The Soloist

Digital Three Stars
Cynical people called this one of those specially built, sure fire contenders for the Oscars, a disadvantaged homeless man, a selfish and uncaring newspaper reporter at the low end of his luck, and redemption for both promised when the reporter sees a possible human interest story.

All in all I thought it sounded a little engineered and uninteresting, and the negative talk of Jamie Foxx not proving convincing enough in his role seemed to be the final icing on the cake.

Sometimes when you have to watch a film you get some surprises, and it can expose when critics really are wrong, or at least way too harsh. The Soloist is such a case.

Plot.pngThe film sees a reporter, played by Robert Downey Jr., looking for his next story bumping and into a homeless man, played by Jamie Foxx, who is clearly suffering from mental health problems but is managing to play beautiful music wherever he can scrounge a broken instrument or play at a piano in a shopping mall.

The man claims to have been at Julliard, and his ability to play is stunning, and so the reporter begins to investigate the man and his life, writing about his music, the terrible state of the homeless in the city, and his own growing connection with the man.

As they become friends the reporter tries to improve his life, finding him sheltered accommodation, trying to get him somewhere to play, but all the while focused on his story and not so much the person.

TheFilm.pngTheSoloist.jpgI think what surprised me the most about the story is that it isn't a straight up, overly sentimental drama designed to get the tears flowing and the emotions pouring out. It doesn't play on the characters and their roles as you might expect one of these human interest films with major leading Hollywood actors to do, in fact there's a surprising amount to the film that is far from that.

There's quite a bit of harsh reality woven behind the story, occasionally making it to the fore and becoming much more important as the film moves on and the audience become invested in the characters.

One of the aspects that I particularly liked was how it didn't just concentrate on the lighter and happier side of the relationship of the two leads and how there are some darker moments both with the main character and with the portrayal of the homeless people of the city.

This isn't a typically sugar coated tale, although the film in its entirety does feel more entertainment than abject truth and harsh reality. Still, there is a surprising amount of non-Hollywood than the critics would have you believe, especially with the ending, and that's a good thing.

What it could have delved into more was the whole morale debate of the exploitation of Foxx's character by Robert Downey Jr.'s, for this is hinted at and mentioned at some points but it's never really brought to the fore as a big issue. For me this was one of the moral cores of the film. There are a number of times that you see the reporter going after the story while the film is doing a good job of making you realise that it's actually a person and a person's life. To that end it makes Downey's character a hard one to find sympathy for.

Perhaps, in a way, that's a good thing because I'm always talking about how I don't want a film to overly explain itself or to spell things out, maybe it was best left as unexplored, giving the audience the chance to believe the reporter was doing good, or to see the more human side of his motives. It made no real judgement on the character and left that to you.

One of the complaints I heard about the film from a few sources was that there was just no belief in Jamie Foxx being a homeless person, this is something I have to contend. Although I'm not a great fan of him as an actor, and some of the stories I've heard about him have tainted my view of him as a personality, in The Soloist there's no doubting he delivered a powerful performance, and that's not just down to his playing a man with mental difficulties.

Jamie Foxx was very good in his role and very convincing, I don't know where the doubt would have come from unless there was a way you couldn't get over seeing Jamie Foxx and not viewing him as an actor.

Robert Downey Jr. gave a strong performance too, and you do believe in his character. He delivers that selfish character quite well, similar in a lot of ways to the make-up of Tony Stark, but here it's reality and the character does start to break at the edges when he begins to see the person more than anything.

One thing I felt about his character is that I didn't get a clear sense of where he began, what his starting character was, and so his journey felt a little less accomplished than it could have been. I found the whole opening rather confusing and felt I was trying to catch up with the reporter storyline but never really did.

The wonderful and gorgeous Catherine Keener appears too and there's a romantic connection between her and the reporter, however it's in the past, and I like how this is played in that we see her growing surprise, and perhaps a little reconnection with him, as she sees how he is becoming caught up with the homeless man on a personal level and how he is trying to help him. What's so great about this is that it isn't taken much further than that, and there's no big Hollywood romance, just the hint of something that was, and something that could be.

Audio.pngiTouch Stereo
The audio is good, there was never any real need for anything more than stereo since it was a character piece, but come the time of the music, and especially when there was some echo or reverberation in the sound, it held well on the small headphones.

Picture.pngiTouch Widescreen
The picture was strong and worked well on the iTouch. It looked good throughout the film, never being harmed by the darker pictures. As for the film itself, the camera moved a lot through scenes, even scenes where there was a focus on the characters themselves. Rather than harming and distracting from those scenes, it added to the flow of the story, the music and any tension.

Overall.pngStill, for all the positives I have about the film, it does turn out to be a little forgettable, and soon after I found I had to think carefully about what had happened and to whom. Indeed the ending itself I find a little struggle to remember.

Watching it though is another matter and it's far better than the critics would have you believe when it was originally released. It's enjoyable, the characters are believable, the story draws you in, and it has some good things to say.

The film is not the standard Hollywood emotional pulp that is so often reeled out, there's more to it than that, there's the strong performances from the leads, a solid story, good entertainment, and a good few messages to be had from it. Ignore the critics negativity and give it a go.

Buy from iTunes The SoloistiTunes UK
UK IMDB Film Details



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