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The Soloist Strikes A Bad Chord

By Ron Millennor, Executive Sports Producer

I was really looking forward to seeing The Soloist, but now that I've seen it I think it hit more than a few sour notes. The flaws have nothing to do with the cast, Robert Downey, Jr. And Jamie Foxx are both wonderful in the film. The weakness comes from director Joe Wright, who, in my opinion, took the story in too many directions. The movie is based on a series on columns written by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez (Downey, Jr.) chronicling his encounters with a homeless man, Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx), whom he discovers is a musical prodigy suffering from a mental illness.

Through flashbacks we learn how Ayers, while at the famed Juilliard School, developed schizophrenia. Because of his illness he leaves school and becomes homeless on the streets of L.A.. That's where Lopez meets and befriends Ayers. After learning of his background, the writer decides to tell Ayer's amazing story and attempts to get him some help. So he takes him to a homeless shelter littered with junkies, thieves and crazies.

That's where their relationship, and the film, begin to fray. Ayers resents being a charity case and won't, or can't accept the fact that he's ill. He rebels against Lopez, threatening to kill him if he ever comes around him again. At this point the movie derails into a social commentary on homelessness.

I think this could have been a great movie. Foxx is flawless in his portrayal of a man suffering from schizophrenia. He seems to channel Dustin Hoffman's character Raymond in Rain Man with his stream-of-consciousness ramblings; some lucid, some just plain gibberish. Foxx went so far as to have his teeth chiseled down to make him look like he had lived on the streets. And Downey gives his usual stellar performance. All that was lacking was a sense of direction from the guy calling the shots. And that's disappointing because I liked Wright's last film, Atonement, which was nominated for seven Oscars.

Let me be clear, this isn't a bad movie, it just could have been so much more. I say save your nine bucks and wait for the DVD.

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