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The Soloist movie poster

The Soloist

Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by:
Joe Wright
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener, Stephen Root

Released by: DreamWorks Pictures

In Short: Based on a true story, the film captures the unlikely friendship of Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a schizophrenic homeless man.
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Play On, Soloist
Best-Selling Book Makes it to the Big Screen

Director Joe Wright (of 2007's Atonement) takes Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez's best-seller The Soloist to the big screen in a film that retells the true story of an unlikely friendship with Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a mentally ill homeless man who was once a musical prodigy. With moving performances from Robert Downey Jr. (Lopez) and Jamie Foxx (Ayers), the film makes for a great character study, however, it falls a bit flat in the evolution of its plot.

The movie begins with the meeting of Lopez and Ayers on a downtown Los Angeles street. After hearing a nearby violinist play refrains from Beethoven, Lopez approaches the musician, hoping to turn the encounter into a human interest piece for the paper. When Lopez discovers that the homeless, bedraggled man, who wears a sequined-studded safety vest and Hawaiian lei throughout the film, attended the famed Julliard School in New York, he becomes intrigued. The meeting turns into a series of popular columns, and quickly develops into a deep, personal friendship. Lopez becomes especially invested in Ayers and as a result attempts to pull him out of abject poverty, offering him a chance to assimilate back into society.

Jamie Foxx in The Soloist Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx in The Soloist

The passion Ayers exhibits while playing music is deeply inspirational and Foxx does the man justice in his performance. On the same note, Downey's portrayal of the hardened writer, hoping to help an unfortunate soul, gives the audience someone with whom they can connect. As noted earlier, it is really the character development—rather than the plot itself—that touches our hearts. The depth and growth of both characters is inspiring, particularly in the face of hardships like race, homelessness and mental instability that serve as thematic issues throughout the film.

Although the film lacks luster in the plot department (Hollywood's formulaic "happily ever after" certainly does not apply to this film), the film is still worth the price of a ticket, even if only for the undeniably talented depiction of two fascinating individuals searching for hope in the City of Angels.

Reviewed by Lauren Becker

PKR033109 (Updated: 04/24/09 KR)

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