If we’ve learned anything over the years from movies about journalists, reporters and TV newspeople, it’s that theirs is a world of ethical and psychological pitfalls. One day, you’re an upstanding citizen doing your job, investigating and helping keep the public apprised of current events, and then, suddenly you’re Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole (1951), deliberately manipulating your story to create and prolong the media circus surrounding it. Or you’re Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote (2005), befriending a convicted murderer but privately rooting for his execution. Or you’re Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), ingesting so many intoxicants that you miss the story entirely. Or you’re Hayden Christensen in Shattered Glass (2003) and just flat out making shit up. […]
Who’s ready to spend four hours with Johnny Depp as a substance-abusing, raving goofball? No, it’s not another Pirates sequel, but a double-feature of adaptations of semi-autobiographical novels by the late, sometimes great, frequently soused, often reckless, original “gonzo” journalist and author, Hunter S. Thompson: Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), and Bruce Robinson’s Rum Diary. […]
“The Soloist” tells a story about extraordinary gifts connected to a very compromised life. If this sounds like something straight from the headlines, it should. LA Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote about a man who changed his life, first encountered in a skid row plaza near a statue of Beethoven.
What follows is complicated like any messy life, and it will have you wondering: Haven’t I seen something like this already?
Yes. You have. Director Scott Hicks brought us “Shine” in 1996, earning Geoffrey Rush a Best Actor Oscar in a well-made, well-regarded film that touched many of the elements now reworked by “The Soloist.”
Both stories tell us about real people who inspire and piss off their friends in roughly equal measure. Both will open the eyes and heart. Does one create a more indelible portrait of dignity among people who are only too human? That’s our Smackdown.