ENTER MOVIE-SOLOIST 4 MCT

Director Joe Wright (left) and Jamie Foxx (right) discuss a scene on the set of the drama "The Soloist." (Francois Duhamel/Courtesy DreamWorks/MCT)

This week we watched the Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey, Jr. film The Soloist (PG-13). Based on actual events, Downey plays newspaper man Steve Lopez, who befriends a troubled and brilliant former Julliard student (Foxx) now living on the streets of LA. Catherine Keener costars and Joe Wright directs.

Ryan: The Soloist was originally prepped to be released last winter in time to be considered for the Oscars. This isn't too surprising considering that it has all the bait to be an Academy Award contender — past Oscar winner and nominee as the leads, a young up-and-coming director that has already been recognized by the Academy and most importantly it's a biopic. Strangely enough its release got pushed (some would say dumped) into the spring time. When this happens, it is never a good sign. But with that said, The Soloist is not an Oscar-worthy film but it is a decent film.

Andy: It was probably wise to hold off on The Soloist until now, as it would have certainly been lost in the shuffle last December. But now it is a nice alternative to what’s available in theatres. That said, the Soloist features some big shortfalls and some great moments, making it both intriguing and frustrating at the same time. Ultimately it comes across as a little formulaic, especially in the context of its early Oscar dreams.

Ryan: The biggest shortcoming with The Soloist is its aspirations to be an important, potentially award-winning film. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the filmmakers having grandiose ideas but for a film to reach those aspirations the results have to be awe inspiring. With The Soloist that is not the case. Granted there are some heartfelt moments in the film but for the most part the movie lacks dramatic resonance. It's almost like the director, Wright, had a checklist of what makes a movie great and subsequently worked to check everything off that list to include in the film. Needless-to-say this isn't what happened but it feels that way and that significantly hinders the movie.

Andy: Wright showed some signs of being a top-level director with 2007’s Atonement. I didn’t like that film, but much of what Wright did cinematically was worth noting. Unfortunately, that is not what happened here. He had many choices that seemed risky, including musical sequences with just splotches of color on the screen, as well as flashback sequences that seemed awkward at best (Jamie Foxx playing a college-aged Julliard student). But unlike in Atonement, when some of the risky choices worked brilliantly, none of his risks really paid off. What really carries this movie is the performance of the two leads.

Ryan: While Wright struggled with the film's structure, he was able to elicit solid performances by the two leads. Downey Jr. is on a role (Zodiac, Iron Man and Tropic Thunder) and he continues his strong work here by delivering a noteworthy performance. Foxx also does an admirable job in making Nathaniel Ayers more than just a sympathetic character. The audience is clearly pulling for the guy but Foxx makes him a more well-rounded character than just another cinematic caricature. There's no question that it is the performances by Downey Jr. and Foxx that makes The Soloist a watchable film.

Andy: Downey Jr. and Foxx are both at the top of their game. Foxx has the beefier role, while Downey’s was probably more difficult to play. Both of them do what they have to do in order to give their characters depth, and it is their relationship that carries the film along. Fortunately, watching two of the best in the game practicing their craft keeps The Soloist worth watching.

The Soloist has many flaws, but the performances carry it to a B-.

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