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The Soloist review

Robert Downey Jr helps the homeless

On paper, The Soloist reeks of Oscar. The plight of the mentally ill, the travails of the homeless, the nature of friendship, a pinch of white man’s guilt… worthy topics all. But thanks to heavy-handed treatment, this true story ultimately feels like a work of mannered fiction.

Robert Downey Jr plays real-life Los Angeles Times writer Steve Lopez, who happens among Nathaniel Ayers ( Jamie Foxx), a former Julliard music student battling paranoid schizophrenia.

As Lopez writes of Ayers’ troubles, he becomes part of the story, the journo seeking redemption for his failings by helping a fallen man.

Beset by flashbacks and voiceover, the narrative doesn’t so much unfold as meander. And after the visual coups of Atonement, director Joe Wright here succumbs to overwrought symbolism (lingering shots of birds flying free over congested roads).

One or two scenes resonate – Lopez’s ex-wife (Catherine Keener) bitterly questioning his motives – but overall there’s little emotional hook.

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