The Soloist was originally scheduled to open the AFI Film Festival last October; however, at the last minute Paramount pulled the film from the schedule and from its scheduled wide release. It was an odd, and unexplained change, especially considering the Oscar-bait nature of the story. It was originally pushed to March 13, but was moved again to its final resting place, April 24. I find its placing in the schedule a little strange; putting it out the weekend before the dawn of the '09 blockbuster season seems to show a lack of confidence on the part of the studio. Should we worry? Yes and no. The movie has an Oscar-bait feel to it, making me glad it is not in any danger of becoming Oscar fodder, because while it is emotionally affecting, it is incomplete from a narrative standpoint.
The biggest draw of The Soloist is its two leads. Yes, the story would appear to be a compelling option, but seriously, who was not more interested in seeing the pairing of Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx? Two skilled actors, with the added bonus of one of them being a fantastic comeback story, the likes only Hollywood itself could write.
The film is based on a true story, with a few changes, of course. Whenever you approach a film that is based on a true story, whether it tells you right up front or not, you need to prepare yourself a little beforehand. No, I do not mean you need to read up on the story in advance of seeing the movie. What I mean is that you cannot accept everything presented as fact. Elements will be embellished, events will be rearranged, and some "facts" will be complete fabrications. Despite the truth being compelling, it does not always make for a watchable movie; it needs to be punched up.
On the surface, we have all seen this story before in a variety of guises. It is a good story, one that will affect you whether you want it to or not. It is skillfully told and as you are watching the cliches, the actors are busy getting by your defenses, making you care about the characters no matter how incomplete they may be.