VIDEO: The trailer for The Soloist
Director Joe Wright's debut, the Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen Pride & Prejudice, reveled in period lushness; his follow-up, Atonement, boasted a long, artful tracking shot and confirmed his knack for the epic. So he seems an odd fit for a small, real-life drama about a homeless musical genius set in the urban present.
The Soloist is uneven but affecting. Wright's bravura direction helps, but the real virtuoso here is Robert Downey Jr., whose troubled LA Times reporter, Steve Lopez, must confront a failed marriage and a dying industry.
Redemption comes in the form of Nathaniel Ayers (an adequate Jamie Foxx, though Samuel L. Jackson would have seemed born for the role), a Juilliard dropout living on the streets. Wright never indulges in maudlin heavy-handedness, and that allows Downey to achieve genuine pathos.