starring Jaime Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener, Tom Hollander
screenplay by Susannah Grant
directed by Joe Wright
by Walter Chaw Black, crazy, homeless, and a prodigy--it's A Beautiful Mind and Searching for Bobby Fischer and The Fisher King and The Green Mile all wrapped up in a tight little Oscar ball. And The Soloist is a true story, of course, from LA TIMES columnist Steve Lopez's affecting series on homeless guy Nathaniel Ayers, which he turned into a book that's been adapted into a movie scripted by seasoned middlebrow emotional rapist Susannah Grant and directed by rapidly-developing first-class hired-hack Joe Wright. A problem, you'll agree, that it was pushed by its own studio out of the catbird seat late last year to make room for, of all things, that non-starter Revolutionary Road. The issue--arguably the only issue--of exploitation is raised, and well, in the film's most honest scene: at an awards banquet feting Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) for his profile of Nathaniel (Jaime Foxx), the former's editor/ex-wife Mary (Catherine Keener) excoriates Lopez for his reluctance to fully engage what had at that point become his near-total responsibility. If that central issue of the picture lies fallow until an ill-fated recital (set up by ill-used, slapstick laughing-stock Christian cellist Graham Claydon (Tom Hollander)) ends with a few wild swings of a nail-studded bat, at least it's introduced as an elephant in a room full of people in that darkened theatre clucking at how adorable and somehow inspirational it is that a hobo is a world-class cellist.