Dir Joe Wright US (G)
Joe Wright sent his cameras twirling around ballrooms and hurtling across rural fields in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice. Considering that unusually limber adaptation, plus 2007’s Atonement, this is a real filmmaker that toils behind the liberal pieties of The Soloist. Two contemporary Los Angelenos – one homeless, one merely unmoored – form a symbiotic relationship, and Wright is not content to merely play dutiful executor. The director shapes these trajectories into fiery comets. Riding the dying bronco of print journalism, Los Angeles Times reporter Steve (Robert Downey Jr) closes his car door to the squalor of poverty, then can’t stand the silence and charges out to find his missing column subject. That is Nathaniel (Jamie Foxx), a Juilliard prodigy until madness claimed him.
The Soloist comes from the complex, real-life relationship of Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers, adapted from Lopez’s account by Erin Brockovich’s Susannah Grant. As pitched on the economic border between the luxe, curvy Walt Disney Concert Hall and LA’s depressed needy, it strikes the same humane chords as Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King. The tears it elicits are earned. But as with Gilliam’s movie, there’s an element of fantastic fate that’s discordant.