Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Best Movie I've Seen In a Screening

Last night, I saw the best movie I've ever seen in a screening.

Admittedly, the bar was not set all that high.  I think the previous best movie I've seen in a screening was Bad Santa, which had what you might call a limited charm.  (This wasn't the best known movie I've seen in a screening, though.  That honor goes to Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.  Which I'd sorta thought was a giant piece of crap, and I couldn't understand why everyone was laughing.)

So, yeah, my record with screenings isn't the best.  (Mindhunters, anyone?  187Two if by Sea?)  So I was a bit cautious when I picked up the invite for another screening. 

The film in question is called The Soloist.

It said it stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx.  I have to admit this sounds promising.

It's directed by Joe Wright, the dude what directed Atonement.  (I didn't see that film, but the credit carries a certain weight.)

I looked it up on imdb, and they're aiming for a late November release.  That's the sort of release date that says "For your consideration."

I rsvp for the screening and show up.

It's good.  It's really good.  It's a couple scenes shy of downright exceptional.  (Conveniently, we are asked to fill out surveys at the end of the movie, which gives me the opportunity to share with them the bits of the film I think they need to fix.) 

I am not alone in thinking it's good.  At the end of the film, while we're filling out our surveys, this dude starts walking around the theatre asking us whether we liked it.  He's collecting up people to participate in a short discussion about the movie.  Since I liked the movie, and the six people around me liked it too, we weren't asked to join the panel.  A few people sitting nearby didn't like it all that much, and the survey guy cheerfully shouted, "I've got three more!"  Always a good sign, I think, when you're having trouble finding people for your "we hated your movie" discussion.

The only trouble I envision for this thing is marketing it, because any attempt to describe it makes it read insufferably sweet.  Imdb (incorrectly, as it turns out) describes the plot as "
A schizophrenic, homeless musician from Skid Row, Los Angeles dreams of playing at Walt Disney Concert Hall."  (Sort of makes you want to reach for the insulin right now, doesn't it?)  Makes it sound like one of those grandiose, inspirational stories that make audiences all weepy.

The Soloist
isn't that picture.  It aims much smaller.  And I'm not spoiling anything by saying the movie does not end with the homeless guy playing Disney Hall to the cheers of an adoring audience.  It's based on a true story and is rather better described as "A newspaper writer stumbles across a homeless street musician who actually has talent, and tries to help the guy.  A little."  It isn't sweet and sappy and pretty -- it's ugly and nuanced and real.  It's homelessness and mental illness and politics and journalism ... and music.

Did I mention that it was good?  Absolutely engrossing.  Guy next to me leaned forward during the whole thing.  And during one of the aforementioned not-very-good scenes, I actually realized that I was sitting in a theater -- because I had clearly forgotten this during the bulk of the film.

Am still pondering the film because it honestly has the potential to be scary good.

Wow.  A good screening.  I can hardly believe it.

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