In 2005, the only thing hurting Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) more than his face from a recent bike accident was his pressing need for story ideas. Then he discovers Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a mentally ill, homeless street musician who possesses extraordinary talent for the cello and violin. Lopez starts writing acclaimed articles about Ayers and attempts to do more to help L.A.’s homeless and Ayers. But Lopez’s finds it hard to have the strength to keep helping Ayers’ when his mental illness turns ugly. Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice).
Rating: 6 out of 10
I was looking forward to seeing Downey and Foxx on the screen together, and I wasn’t disappointed. The two have excellent chemistry and deliver both dramatic and humorous performances that evoke sympathy and admiration.
What holds this movie up is the length of the story. We are given flashbacks of Ayers life before he became mentally ill, homeless, and living on the street playing music. We’re also given a side story between Lopez and his ex-wife Mary Weston (Catherine Keener) and we’re not sure if they’re patching it up or if they hate each other. Lopez’s story is focused around his work, writing the articles about Ayers and feeling as if he’s taking advantage of his situation. Lopez is also torn about whether his help is actually doing anything for Ayers. There’s just too much going on. We get too many flashbacks that we really don’t need. We get that Ayers hears voices. We don’t need a dozen flashbacks to prove it. And the not-so-love story with Weston feels forced and slows the pace of the film.
In the end, there are some touching moments, but the films drags on for far too long. Or at least for a 117 minute film, it sure feels like it.