Every year or so, an indie movie comes along that captures the hearts of nearly all the critics ... and leaves me baffled as to why. Lost in Translation and Junebug were just such movies.
Goodbye Solo is likely that movie for 2009.
According to www.rottentomatoes.com, 100 percent of critics agree that Goodbye Solo is one of the best movies of the year and that the writer/director is the new Scorsese or Tarantino. WTF?
The premise is promising enough. William, a world-weary, old man hires a cab to take him to the movies one night. He offers a hefty advance to the Senegalese cabbie (Solo) to drive him from Winston-Salem, N.C. to Blowing Rock two weeks hence -- on Oct. 20. Delightful Solo is a little suspicious of this surly fellow who wants a one-way ride to the mountains and isn't planning to meet anyone once he gets there. Solo wonders if he's planning to jump off the mountain. Bingo!
Solo's love of life is contagious, and he assumes he'll be able to talk this stranger out of killing himself over the next two weeks. And, he tries mightily.
But, William is one bitter old man. He softens occasionally under Solo's care, but then goes right back to being a cussing, angry son-of-a-gun. The movie could've been deeply affecting, if we ever found out why William is so bitter. But, that would apparently be too much to ask of co-writer/director Ramin Bahrani. William is given no back story at all. It's pretty hard to care about his character when we know so little about what makes him tick.
The lone good actor in the cast is Souleymane Sy Savane, who plays Solo. Every other character, from movie ticket takers to a pharmacist at a drive-thru, gives either a wooden delivery of his lines or an overly excited one.
I suppose Winston-Salem is supposed to look down-and-out, and it does. We see the same exterior shot of the fleabag motel William checks into while he awaits D-Day countless times. Even the director of My Name is Earl shows more varied shots of the hotel where Earl lives.
Just how sloppy is the film making? One actor calls Solo "Souleymane" (his real name!) Now, perhaps "Solo" is short for "Souleymane," but shouldn't that be made clear?
By the time Oct. 20 rolls around, I didn't much care if William followed through on his plan or not. I was ready to big him "goodbye" about 15 minutes into the film.
Slow, sloppy, unimaginatively shot and utterly lacking in human interest ... I see nothing redeeming about this movie. Skip it.