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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Soloist




And finally, without further adew, I am about to review and thoroughly dissect The Soloist. The story behind the review for this film sounds like a film synopsis in itself: once again, the unnamed source, good friend and fellow critic, lent me a copy of the film. However, the film was a Region 1 DVD and as such, required a bit of work done to a DVD player in order to watch. Then I became slightly disinterested in the idea of watching the film until I decided "sod it!" and so I finally watched The Soloist. Excuse my own plot synopsis, and let's get down to the plot synopsis of The Soloist. Journalist Steve Lopez, played by Robert Downey Jr, is looking for a story, and finds it in a homeless and schizophrenic former musical prodigy Nathaniel Ayers, played by Jamie Foxx. During the course of the film, the two develop a friendship, and life-changing events occur for both as a result of this friendship. Yes, it's one of those, "dry your tears with your hankie" movies. Originally, the film was considered an Oscar front-runner, but its release date was pushed back to April of 2009. As a result, it just seems to have been and gone without people really noticing that it ever hit the screens. I mean, a $60 million budget with two Hollywood stars in Downey Jr and Foxx would have made this appropriate in the midst of the usual Oscar season films, but because of the delays and release date in April, it recouped just over $31 million, and as such is a box-office flop. Also, the film is directed by Joe Wright, hot off of the success both critically and commercially with Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, so this was his first Hollywood film. To start with the good, the acting in the film is very good. Foxx plays the role of Ayers with suitable layered complexity, giving the film an interesting edge. Downey Jr has the harder job of playing Steve Lopez, for the film's centrepiece is the character of Nanthaniel Ayers, but Downey Jr, although not having a great role, does his best, proving himself once again as one of the hardest working actors in the world. In a minimal role, Catherine Keener does her best, but unfortunately is not given enough screen time to establish a memorable performance. To the film's credit, the central story is genuinely captivating. The story, itself a true story, is one which is genuinely emotionally harrowing, and really does pull on our emotional strings. However, the emotion and power of the story itself is in many respects the only reason why I would want to continue watching as the actors try bravely to improve the standards of the film. The script for The Soloist is very poorly written by Susannah Grant. Structurally, the script is very basic. There really does not seem to have been much effort put towards this. For starters, while most of the film is told chronologically, which I personally have no problem with if it’s done correctly, they add in flashback scenes to various points of Ayers' life, and they do not seem to serve any dramatic purpose whatsoever. Case in point, if you are to add extra scenes of expositional material which may ridicule the audience’s intelligence, they should be there to add to the emotional power of the tale. Here, it just seems to be a case of "we know already, now let's get on with it." I personally cannot stand whenever films see the need to spell out to you how you should feel or what exactly is going on in the story. Any human can naturally empathise with the emotion of a harrowing tale, regardless of whether or not they have experienced a similar situation themselves: it's a thing called human nature. Also, very much like Marley and Me, the dialogue for all intents and purposes is purely expositional and does not come across as dialogue between human beings, therefore completely disconnecting us from the emotion of the story. Also, it seems as if director Joe Wright is completely disconnected from the entire filmmaking process as a whole. Unaware of the film's emotional vacancy, Wright seems to have floated through the proceedings as though in a Valium-induced haze: I'm sure he had the best intentions with the film, but he unfortunately seems unaware of the poor script, a fatal flaw for any director. Note to all: the script must be perfect before filming begins full-stop! What I will say though is that the score by Dario Marianelli is very well done and utilized. Yes, it is one of those "this is where you cry" scores I normally hate in movies (unoriginal orchestral scores are becoming a real pain in my ass), but the way that it is utilized in the movie is brilliant. Absent from the opening scenes of the film, the score is introduced upon the meeting between Lopez and Ayers, as though the power of music brings emotion to people’s lives. Also, from here on it used expertly throughout. I don't think it is a brilliant score, but for dramatic intents and purposes, it is used very well throughout. All round, I believe that The Soloist has some really good acting and a solid score, but unfortunately Joe Wright seems unaware of the poor script that he has on his hands, condemning the film to the depths of forgettable fare, which is dreadful considering the fascinating story behind the film.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Very disappointed

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