When I went to see Burn After Reading last week attached was the trailer for the The Soloist, a new drama from Atonement director Joe Wright. It stars Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx and everyone's favorite actor these days, Robert Downey Jr. A film with an Oscary director, an Oscary actor, and another actor who is having a banner year in 2008? I'd be stupid not to consider the Oscar implications of this movie.
The Soloist tells the story of a journalist who meets a schizophrenic homeless man (Foxx) only to find out he is a gifted musician. Touched by the man and his music, Downey's character is determined to help Foxx reshape his life. On his journey to helping his newfound friend, he learns to shed his more selfish attributes by sacrificing his time, taking responsibility and being a friend.
Yup, it sounds Oscary to me. It's The Fisher King meets Rain Man meets Resurrecting the Champ. When Rain Man came out, Dustin Hoffman was a shoo-in for the Oscar. Nobody really took Tom Cruise (who is excellent in that movie) seriously as an actor then, so it was easy for Hoffman to trump his co-star despite having the smaller role. Based on the trailer, the separation line between lead actor and supporting actor at least appears more defined here and if that's the case we might be looking at a Best Actor campaign for Downey and a Best Supporting Actor campaign for Foxx. It's kind of silly to start analyzing what their chances are for an Academy Award but I'm a wild and crazy guy like that.
To be honest, the performance I'm really interested in is Foxx's. He has the more interesting and trickier role. It can be underplayed or overplayed. It could work for some viewers and annoy others. There's more of an opportunity to screw the pooch so I'm curious what he does with it. I will say this though: If both actors are equally great, Foxx has more of a shot to get in the race. The Supporting Actor is always chock-full of contenders but the Best Actor race is even more crowded.
However, the Academy has a tendency to vote for "the story" many times and Robert Downey Jr. is one of 2008's best stories. He is already adored by his peers -- literally an actor's actor -- but now he has the comeback kid factor thrown into the mix. He just needs to be solid to be seriously considered. On the other hand, if he's "great" watch out because we might be truly headed for "Year of the Downey." It could shape up to be kind of like 1992 when Al Pacino finally won an Oscar for Scent of a Woman. He was also nominated for Glengarry Glen Ross the same year and there was just this feeling that enough was enough: Al was getting his Oscar.
The Academy might be ballsy enough to nominate Downey for Tropic Thunder, but I don't see him winning (not with Heath Ledger's name on the ballot). His competition only gets more stiff in the Best Actor race, a field replete with contenders like Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio, Frank Langella, Benicio Del Toro, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Will Smith, Viggo Mortensen, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Richard Jenkins, Mickey Rourke, Brad Pitt and -- who knows -- maybe even Jamie Foxx.
What I'm saying is this: I know nothing. But it's going to be fun seeing how it all plays out. Especially given that I'm rooting for "the story" too. Get 'em Iron Man!
Editor's Note: Here's that Soloist trailer: