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Carly at the Movies | Feeling lonely at ‘The Soloist’

Even though “The Soloist” is playing at every theater in the universe, you’re likely to feel a bit lonely if you choose to see it.
Everyone, it seems, has read the negative reviews. The more thoughtful critics seem to have sniffed this one out, and word of mouth is sending potential viewers thundering back to their TV sets for another endless hour of “American Idle” or an additional frustrating sixty minutes being hopelessly “Lost.”

“The Soloist,” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, is only proof that real life can be just as maudlin and depressing as weepy movies. And while the tears and frustration flow unimpeded through each and every 109 minutes of this film, it never goes anywhere.

We see Jamie Foxx doing a good job acting like a schizophrenic, with ups and downs and weird reactions and flashes of genius mixed with gibble-gabble. But Robert Downey Jr., portraying a newspaper columnist, is unbelievable. (Why? Well, we all know that even in real life, every newspaper columnist looks exactly like Gregory Peck.) Actually, he does an OK job, but displays none of the columnist’s nervous concern with deadlines or new stories to explore. He devotes virtually all his time to helping this homeless schizophrenic cello player play a big-shot concert.

If you look hard enough, you’ll realize that Catherine Keener is also in this film but has little or nothing to do. Shameful waste of talent. However, the biggest conceit of “The Soloist” is that the guy is a regular Pied Piper. Whenever he plays, EVERYbody in the immediate vicinity is enthralled. Only happens in movies.

There are two major thingies on the plus side of this film, however. One is that our hero DOESN’T win The Big Game at the end. Director Joe Wright does not romanticize mental illness, as we’ve seen in so many films like “Shine,” and there’s a gritty, depressing realism floating just behind the mushy matrix.

Also, the homeless people problem in Los Angeles is addressed for the first time. There are roughly 90,000 of them, and far too few facilities to help them. We have seen plenty of movies about people living in the slums and ghettos of L.A., but here finally are the homeless, presented in huge and depressing numbers along with the social workers who attempt to stem the tide.

Looking for a feel-good movie? Look elsewhere. My suggestion is a little 2007 movie, out on DVD, that slipped right by most of us. It’s called “Outsourced,” and stars Josh Hamilton.

Ever call your credit-card company and be connected to someone in India? This cheerful little film gives you a fun look at the other side of the coin, and while the major plot lines are predictable, the mostly-Indian cast is full of charming characters, and you’ll end up smiling all the way through this culture clash movie. Plus, you’ll find there are other dimensions to this people-packed country we tend to stereotype as denizens of the Black Hole of Calcutta. Or worse, dancers in “Slumdog Millionaire.”


– Column by Carl Larsen

augusta free press
augusta free press