Thursday, May 28, 2009

[review] The Soloist

Went to see The Soloist a few days ago. Music & Drama: a pleasant combination. Downey & Foxx: another pleasant combination. Author & Ms.Gopher: friends always a pleasant combination. Altogether, a pleasant experience. The Author wrote - of course - a nice review of the movie here.

Up here in lovely (and as of today mosquito-free) Land of the North Star, the question of ethics and medical treatment are the topic d'jour. (Although perhaps the topic of ethics & Hollywood & Good Samaritan-ism ought to be, too.) Anyway - movies

How much right do We (a.k.a. Society) have to dictate someone else's well-being? If someone is not demanding anything of Us, should we be able to demand anything of them in return?

An L.A. Times writer inadvertently meets a mentally ill, yet extremely talented, homeless musician. I'm wondering how to describe this person. Does our description reveal our prejudices? Which is the noun used here? Musician, homeless, or schizophrenic? Does it matter? At one point in the film, we see 'sanity' merging with 'insanity' with sufficient stress and stellar acting from Downey.

I don't recall anymore what the specific script prompt was, but it included the Lord's Prayer. I sincerely wish I could watch that 2 minutes of it again. The musician & reporter were in Skid Row to give The Viewer a montage of the misery of living on the streets and being God Awfully Poor. The recitation of the prayer had gotten to "... give us this day our daily bread..." as the camera is panning down the alley past a soup kitchen line. "... for thine is the kingdom ..." looking down a seemingly endless homeless shelter. Driving home (no doubt quite intentionally) the point that these people are the God's Kingdom as much as the Rich sitting on their therapists' couches explaining their financially motivated neuroses.

Unlike my friend The Author, who is concurrently A Musician, I am an enthusiast rather than a skilled musician. I wouldn't have recognized the specific pieces of Beethoven's music (in fact, I wouldn't have even recognized it as Beethoven). Being stupendously ignorant of the specifics of music theory or classification (is he Baroque?Romantic?HeavyMetal?Other?), I'm not sure if the choices of music were really the best available from J.S.'s extensive repertoire. They are stylistically apt, at any rate.

I'm not sure if the central point of the movie is the issues of mental illness & coping with society's expectations thereto - or whether it is about the relationship between two different men - or perhaps nothing at all. Will the musician get treatment? (maybe yes, maybe no) Will the reporter get a story? (definitely, this is based upon a book) Will Society act on the burgeoning poverty in L.A. (who are you kidding?) Perhaps the one aspect the most appealing is the depiction of the musician's descent into mental illness. This one string of the story is the most interesting. At what point is it recognized as illness? How does this effect the family cohesion? This topic could perhaps get its own movie, solo.

The soloist is whom? The isolated homeless man? The divorced reporter? Or any one of us in society who are inevitably cut off from a whole lot of the rest of society?

Gopher's Rating:
Definitely see it on video

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice review. I think you got the point by what you wrote in the last paragraph. The story was of how we learn to be with the people we care about whether or not they can respond to us. Friendship is the absence of control and the presence of acceptance....

My therapist friend who was so enthusiastic about this movie said they got the mental illness element absolutely right "for a change" but sensationalized the homeless aspect -- usually it's the other way around.