Voice Over, Beethoven!
Review by Christopher Coleman
By the close of 2008, THE SOLOIST had been on a number of “most anticipated” lists for the better part of a year. I counted myself among those who were eagerly awaiting this film. Oddly, a last minute decision was made to push the release date back from the heart of the award-qualifying-rounds of 2008 and into the comparative obscurity of the second quarter of 2009. The film would star Robert Downey Jr. and with his performance in the mega-hit, IRON MAN, he had become a major box-office draw again. Jamie Foxx’s newfound bankability and the ever-enthralling direction of Joe Wright added further reason to have such expectations. Add to this another opportunity for composer DARIO MARIANELLI, fresh off his Oscar winning score for ATONEMENT, to wow audiences with another graceful composition, and THE SOLOIST was poised to please on just about every level a film can.
With all of this going for it, THE SOLOIST faced some inherent difficulties that films of this type generall do. First the portrayal of someone with a mental/emotional challenge can easily tip into the well-worn spaces carved out after films like RAINMAN or FORREST GUMP; weakening their story's emotional power or rendering unintentionally comical. It’s a difficult line to walk; to give an honest portrayal without offending members of the audience. THE SOLOIST certainly bumps that line from time to time, but manages to keep itself unspotted from the world of parody. From a film-music perspective, there is another challenge for a film centered around the subject of music itself…especially classical music.
In such instances, those looking for something fresh-off-the-pen of their favorite composer, can have those hopes dashed in a way, as the respective soundtrack often ends up being solely comprised of classical greats of yester-era. Of course, compiling these classics as the representing soundtrack makes complete sense, but are seldom favorites of soundtrack collectors. On occasion; however, a composer is still needed for this sort of film. Whether his/her music actually makes it onto the soundtrack is another story. In the case of DARIO MARIANELLI and THE SOLOIST, we have something unique; a much different experience than his elegant, original works of the past, but ultimately, no less enthralling.