THE SOLOIST:

I know a guy who took in vagrants because “every one of them has a story.” I imagine all were more noteworthy that this movie’s main plot about the relationship between a job-absorbed Los Angeles newspaper columnist (Robert Downey Jr.) and a homeless schizophrenic (Jamie Foxx) who’s a musical genius. Since this film is based on a true story, I’m presuming from the information flashed during the closing credits that there was some kind of friendship between the two men. I never got that sense from Susannah Grant’s (ERIN BROCKOVICH) screenplay which established early on that any kind of friendship between the pair would be nearly impossible since Foxx’s (RAY) character is crazier than a loon. For whatever reason, the script shifts from being about an unlikely bond between two people to a “message” movie about either mental illness or the homeless. (What? L.A. has a lot of homeless people? Who saw that coming?) I couldn’t help but think, too, that Downey (See sidebar below) was miscast as a guy named Lopez while Foxx’s “flashback to youth” sequences have him looking precisely like a fortysomething man unsuccessfully trying to appear like a twentysomething. Subplots involving Downey’s relationship with his ex-wife/editor (Catherine Keener) and the downsizing of the newspaper industry (explored effectively in STATE OF PLAY) are never developed to any real extent. As a result, this work never takes off or establishes any kind of narrative momentum and caused me to wonder why someone found it relevant enough to make into a movie in the first place.

EXCELLENT MOVIES STARRING ROBERT DOWNEY, JR.: BACK TO SCHOOL (1986), TRUE BELIEVER (1989), CHANCES ARE (1989), CHAPLIN (1992), NATURAL BORN KILLERS (1994), RESTORATION (1995), BOWFINGER (1999) GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK (2005), A SCANNER DARKLY (2006), ZODIAC (2007), IRON MAN (2008), TROPIC THUNDER (2008)