‘The Soloist’ underperforms despite big names

April 30th, 2009

There is nothing wrong with the story line. “The Soloist” is based on the true story of Steve Lopez (Downey) and Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx). Lopez is a Los Angeles columnist who can’t seem to find inspiration for his columns.

Everything changes when he meets a homeless man on the streets of L.A. Nathaniel Ayers used to be a promising musician who at 19 attended The Juilliard School of music. But then his promising future was dashed when he became schizophrenic.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx stumble in their portrayals as Nathaniel Ayers and Steve Lopez

Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx stumble in their portrayals as Nathaniel Ayers and Steve Lopez

He left Juilliard after his second year and wandered to L.A., where he lived and played music on the streets. After Lopez sees Ayers’ musical talent and hears his story, he realizes that he’s found the inspiration he’s been looking for.

Thus begins the journey that would ultimately change both men in ways they never imagined.

Judging from past films, Foxx and Downey could be considered two of today’s best actors. They both make their characters stand out, by going the distance and receiving critical acclaim.

One of the best scenes involved a surprising and shocking fight between Ayers and Lopez. This was the only sign of an Oscar performance in Foxx. He was mesmerizing. Another great scene involves Lopez giving a monologue that is a great credit to Downey’s versatility.

Other than that, there aren’t many signs of brilliance for either star.

Unfortunately, the screenplay makes Downey’s character extremely dry and dull. In fact, if it wasn’t for Downey’s acting, it would be much easier to discern how lifeless the character really is.

However, Downey does bring Lopez to life, mostly by the use of his eyes, showing us the character’s complexity and depth.

He brings his Tony Stark, Downey’s character in “Iron Man,” charm to the part with his delivery of rapid-fire, dry-but-hilarious dialogue. Jamie Foxx’s portrayal is an enigma. From his past films, Foxx has already shown his acting capability.

Unlike Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump or Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond Babbitt, Foxx’s character is not so easy to assess. Ayers’ random dialogue and lack of expression makes it really hard to like the character or disagree with his portrayal.

Although “The Soloist” has several very admirable performances and strongly written scenes, the film doesn’t come together with the weak screenplay.

The way in which the film was put together was poorly done. It drags in all the wrong places. It feels way too long and it’s not even two hours. Its editing is choppy.

Its story line feels too much like a bunch of random events rather than a narrowly-crafted film.

“The Soloist” is much too unsystematic, and gives a sad attempt at an ending.