Some actors seem to get hooked on playing variations of the same role over and over. I’m not referring to those who essentially portray different variations on their own personalities in each movie – i.e. the tired shtick of Robin Williams and to a lesser extent Jim Carrey – but the ones who always end up taking the same type of role, like Harrison Ford’s spate of ruffians with a heart of gold or Sandra Bullock’s prim and proper fish out of water.
Jamie Foxx seems to be headed down a similar path, only his particular thing has become stepping into the shoes of characters with physical and mental handicaps. Having achieved acclaim with his portrayal of the blind Ray Charles in the biopic "Ray", he once again went back to the musical well with "The Soloist", only this time he switched things up and swapped his shades for a set of CRAZY PILLS. That’s right, Foxx the comedian decided to stretch his acting chops in the direction of mental illness.
This is pretty much a fatal mistake for any actor. To begin with, no on really knows what goes on in a schizophrenic’s mind, and Foxx’s lengthy experience with hookers and blow hasn’t given him any significant insight into this particular question either. Director Joe Wright makes up for this by occasionally treating the audience to 5 minute stretches of kaleidoscopic imagery and by asking Foxx to continually babble in an incoherent fashion. This is further reinforced by other characters in the film speaking over each other while the noise of the city surges in the background DO YOU FUCKING GET IT? L.A. IS A SCHIZOPHRENIC CITY!
One would think that if anyone would know what it is like to life in a chaotic world of confusing imagery and squabbling internal voices it would be Foxx’s co-lead, Robert Downey, Jr. His experiences with addiction and rehab are well documented, and honestly, would anyone have cared if the film played fast and loose with the truth and cast a white dude to play a black dude who then gets cast to play a white dude who’s now a black dude? It worked for Downey, Jr. in “Tropic Thunder”, and I think it would have been pure gold here.
Fans of some of the more amusing aspects of the mentally handicapped will be disappointed with the soloist – no one masturbates during an awkward family dinner, no one ruins Christmas by bleeding all over the tree, and no one wakes up covered in chocolate and thumb tacks. There is the requisite violent confrontation between protagonists, which of course leads to the heavy handed "I can’t fix the world" moment that every non-crazy person has in a film about crazy people, but that’s about it.
If you’ve seen "Rain Man", then you’ve already seen "The Soloist", except instead of Vegas and card-counting, it turns out that the main character is sort of good at playing the cello. Yes, the movie is as underwhelming as that description sounds. No, it won’t stop your girlfriend from taking you to see this.
To spread the word about this The Soloist review on Twitter.To get instant updates of Mr. Cranky reviews, subscribe to our RSS feed.