I so resent it when movies insist on telling me what they're about. You know what, The Soloist? I just watched two hours of a wisecracking-yet-golden-hearted journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) helping a schizophrenic homeless dude (Jamie Foxx) get back on his feet and achieve his dreams through the power of music (and teach a few lessons of his own—hello, homeless wisdom!). The lesson is clear. I do not require the closing Velveeta speech about courage, humility, faith in the power of art, believing, loyalty, and especially grace. NOT. NECESSARY.

"Based on a true story... a story in progress" (puh-huh-huh-leeeeeeze), The Soloist concerns one Steve Lopez, an Los Angeles Times columnist looking for his next big story while trying to stay afloat in a drowning business. One lucky day, he comes across a fiddlin' hobo, Nathaniel Ayers, who hates littering, loves patriotic top hats, is all crazy in the brains, and something-something-something about Juilliard. Lopez is on the case!

Support The Stranger

After a little digging (and being inexplicably doused in urine, both human and coyote, several times), Lopez discovers that Ayers really did attend Juilliard, where he was a cello virtuoso, but dropped out after the onset of his schizophrenia—a journey explained through super-cornsville flashbacks (in which we discover that schizophrenia looks exactly like the "visualizations" that my highest roommate likes to watch on the computer while he listens to the Pharcyde). Lopez finds Ayers a cello, and Ayers gets all schiz-motional, and then he plays the cello in the freeway tunnel, and then the pigeons fly, fly, fly meaningfully away over downtown L.A. while Ayers pulls special music faces (so you know he's FEELIN' IT), and Lopez gets weepy in the eyeballs, and the pigeons fly ALL THE WAY TO HEAVEN! That's called the pidge of redemption.

The Soloist, thanks to Downey, who is a one-man-turning-bad-stuff-into-good-stuff machine, is way less embarrassing than it should be. I swear, the dude can pull off anything, even this Oscar-pandering triumph of the human spirit crap. The film is awkward sometimes and boring other times, but it's not particularly painful. The weirdest scenes involve "actual homeless people," as we were told before the screening began, in which the filmmakers apparently went to L.A.'s skid row and filmed Downey interacting with its residents. Downey walks around all hum-de-dum-whitey-whitey-white-white, and the skid row people are all, "I'm gonna kill you!" and "Where's my crack?" and "More crack, please!" and the whole thing feels just the tiniest bit unsympathetic and exploitative, you know? Like, oh, homeless people! Homeless people say the darndest things! Homeless people smoke the darndest crack! Homeless people threaten the principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic with the darndest spiked club! But I guess they do sometimes. They do. recommended