I had mixed feelings about whether to see "The Soloist". On the one hand, I'm not fond of Jamie Foxx, and his presence in a movie, let alone as a lead, would deter me from seeing a film. But I'm also quite fond of Robert Downey, Jr., and what if he's the lead opposite Jamie Foxx? In the end, RDJ's presence, and the trailer for the film won out.
This film was supposed to have been released late last year, but word is that the studio decided to hold it back until this year because the field for Oscar nominations for lead and supporting actor were already quite full. I'm not sure the tactic worked, though, because there was so much press for it initially, and then the movie just disappeared, and unless you went looking for information, you didn't know what happened to the film. And then it reappeared again, and the casual filmgoer might think, "wasn't that out already last year?"
Generally, I liked the film, which is based on a true story, but I don't know what liberties they took with the actual story. I did like that it wasn't a "happy ending" completely in that Nathaniel (Foxx) wasn't cured completely, and he wasn't happily giving concert after concert at the Disney Music Hall. A title card at the end says that he did end up being able to get off the streets and live in a room, which is an accomplishment.
The movie isn't particularly easy to watch, as we see the problems that Nathaniel has growing up, problems for which he didn't receive any help. And Steve (Downey, Jr.) isn't exactly a heroic person - he's just a guy thrown into circumstances who actually does a few nice things.
I liked Catherine Keener in this film as Steve's ex-wife and still-boss. I thought she was terrific in "Hamlet 2" as well, and she's got a slightly larger, less quirky part here.
I thought Robert Downey, Jr. did a really good job in this film, making you connect to Steve. But then, maybe I just really like RDJ.
And while I thought Jamie Foxx actually did a good job in this film, it wasn't the kind of attention-grabber that one might normally expect in a role like that. Maybe that's because I'm not fond of him anyway, so me thinking he did a good job is like everyone else thinking he was magnificent. This is the same type of role that earned Dustin Hoffman an Oscar win for "Rain Man" and that earned Sean Penn an Oscar nomination for "I am Sam", but I'm not sure Foxx's performance rises to that level, and I do think that the shuffling of the release date really hurts him. The studio is going to have to mount a serious campaign later this year to remind people of this film and his performance, and to get people to see it who didn't see it when it was released. The film didn't do very well at the box office.
I do think the film is worth seeing though, if you're inclined to when it's out on DVD.