Saturday, October 10, 2009

GOODBYE SOLO - earnest but tired "odd-couple" drama

GOODBYE SOLO is an earnest but deeply dull "odd couple" story. Red West plays an old white man who tries to pay an African taxi driver to take him to the spot where he'll presumably commit suicide. Souleymane Sy Savane plays the cheery, honest, African taxi driver who tries to protect the old man from himself, and befriends him against all odds.

The film has some great strengths. The actors are top notch, the shooting style intimate and writer-director Ramin Bahrani never patronises his characters, but seems genuinely interested in life on the margins of society. But the movie also has a fatal weakness - it reads like a patchwork of recent, better films.

The set-up (young kid tries to prevent old man's suicide) is less saccharine but similar to SCENT OF A WOMAN in its concept. The idea that a young man can break through the cold exterior of a grumpy old man treads some of the same ground as THE VISITOR and, oddly enough, UP. Moreover, the cheery African is like a male version of Poppy in Mike Leigh's HAPPY-GO-LUCKY.

Overall then, this movie seems too familiar, and less than the sum of its parts. Disappointing.

GOODBYE SOLO played Venice, where it won the FIPRESCI award, Toronto and London 2008 and opened earlier this year in the USA, Belgium, France and Brazil. It is currently on release in the UK and opens on November 26th in the Netherlands.

Eventual tags: drama, ramin bahrani, bahareh azimi, souleymane sy savane, red west, diana franco galindo, lane roc williams, michael simmonds, m lo,

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