Two new releases this month tell of unusual male friendships- one for laughs and one for sentiment; both seemed overrated and predictable.
In “The Soloist” Jamie Foxx went with the advice of Robert Downey’s actor character in “Tropic Thunder” and didn’t play “full retard” just going with schizophrenia. Based on the true story of Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez (played by Downey) who befriended a down-and-out man, Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx), who he discovers had some classical cello training at Julliard and then told his story in several articles. Director Joe Wright tries hard to beat the clichés and be original, but by playing loose with the facts (and doing hokey things like presenting a symphony internally from Ayers point of view), the film lays the melodrama on when understatement would have worked better. Downey as usual is great and Foxx keeps his character credible but this is another case of the actors being better than the material. With forced flashbacks and a skid row that seems to be more “Escape from New York” than the real streets of LA, Wright and the screenwriters kill the reality of film despite the two strong performances up front. Trying to play a meaningful violin piece with only two strings again doesn’t work.
On the wackier side of unusual male friendship is “I Love You Man” written and directed by John Hamburg although it seems way similar to the work of bro-mance comedy director Judd Apatow. Paul Rudd is Peter Klaven, an LA realtor who is getting married but seems to just realize that he has no male friends. He finally bumps into bohemian free-spirit Sydney Fife (Jason Segal) who he connects with on the rocky road to male bonding. Along the way there are jams in the man cave, scuffles with Lou Ferrigno and some forced awkward man-dates. Unfortunately for me all seemed like a Comedy Central made-for-TV movie and the only laughs are when Rudd tries to speak hip – saying things like “Slappa da bass mon! “, calling Sydney bizarre nicknames like “Joben” and generally mining the un-coolness of his character to the hilt. Segal as Fife on the other hand seems completely unreal whether when he is threatening people who ask him to curb his dog, launching an unauthorized billboard campaign for Peter or engaging in primal scream therapy. Needless to say this all builds to a downright stupid ending. Reworking date movies for male appeal is a good idea, but they need to be funny, this one is all premise no delivery- totally ... totes my goats!