Review: The Soloist

The film, “The Soloist,” was somewhat disappointing to this avid amateur cellist for two reasons. First, the film goes right along with our contemporary tendency towards oversimplification. The cellist is a musical “genius.” There’s hardly any focus on his education or development. Implied is the current popular misconception that you can’t learn gradually and patiently to love music and/or to play the cello beautifully. The film buys into the myth that you’re either born with this mysterious talent, or forget it!

My second quarrel with the film is the way in which the music was presented visually and aurally. Each time the cello was played, its sound was soon drowned out by souped up symphonic enhancement while we watched birds flying or saw the intricate highway system of Los Angeles from the air. Not that I would have known how to “show” music playing any better myself. That’s a very tough challenge. Nonetheless, dance companies and musicals tackle this problem all the time. Too bad Dreamworks couldn’t have been a bit more imaginative in solving this predicament.

Still, it’s great that this film was made at all. The importance of friendship, the sympathetic portrayal of a schizophrenic, the eye-opening scenes of the down-and-outers in the greater Los Angeles area were all seriously and richly dramatized.

It’s like I am always saying: it’s better to have done something well, than not to do it at all because you can’t be perfect. So, go see this movie or read the book.

Reposted from May 2009