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The Soloist (5/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 125 minutes.

This is going to be a hard film for most to stomach. Itís an interesting story, but is far too long. Itís worth seeing because Robert Downey, Jr. is one of the best actors extant and gives a sparkling performance. Not to be outdone are Jamie Foxx and Catherine Keener. Keener is especially outstanding, but when is she not? Keener is so good Iíd put her up for consideration for an Oscarģ nomination. But the film is due to make not much of a ripple. It was originally scheduled to come out last year in time for Oscarģ consideration, but cooler heads prevailed and itís thrown away here in the spring where most mediocre films go to die.

Based on a true story, Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx) is a Juilliard-trained musician, who became a street person when he developed schizophrenia. Steve Lopez (Downey) writes a column for the Los Angeles Times and runs across Ayers. Not one to miss a good story, he writes column after column and, eventually, the book upon which this film is based.

Unfortunately, the story here is pretty skimpy, even if itís interesting and has heart-warming elements. There is just not enough there for a two hour plus film.

The film captures what it must be like to be schizophrenic better than you have ever seen in the movies. But the problem is that the cinematography (Seamus McGarvey) and directing (Joe Wright) are less than the sum of the actorsí parts. In fact, all three actors give stellar performances. But there are so many scenes of people thinking and ECUs that, for me, this was a real squirmer.

The friend who accompanied me, however, liked it. I think she is in the minority, although the acting is terrific.

April 26, 2009