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Plot: In 2005, the only thing hurting Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez more than his face from a recent bike accident was his pressing need for story ideas. That is when he discovers Nathaniel Ayers, a mentally ill, homeless street musician who possesses extraordinary talent, even through his half-broken instruments. Inspired by his story, Lopez writes an acclaimed series of articles about Ayers and attempts to do more to help both him and the rest of the underclass of LA have a better life. However, Lopez's good intentions run headlong in the hard realities of the strength of Ayers' personal demons and the larger social injustices facing the homeless. Regardless, Lopez and Ayers must find a way to conquer their deepest anxieties and frustrations to hope for a brighter future for both of them. Runtime: 117 mins Release Date: 23 Apr 2009
Uplifting: Finding a Golden Needle in the Haystack of Urban Blight (by LAKERS34)
First off, I should say that I am personally familiar with this story, having worked in downtown L.A. for the last 19 years and seeing Mr Ayers and his cello many a time around 3rd and Hill Sts. I've also read Lopez's columns in the Times for years and followed this one with interest and satisfaction. Making a film about a tale like this restores my belief in Hollywood beyond the mindless bunk it churns out year after year.Downey Jr and Foxx play a newspaper columnist and homeless man who come together in a most unusual way. Downey is a newspaper columnist looking for something <more>
original and interesting to write about. He finds it when he sees Foxx beautifully playing battered stringed instruments along 3rd street in downtown L.A. Foxx has been there for years but on this day grabs the eye of the columnist because the columnist himself is experiencing hardship and doubt related to his own position. He begins to write about this talented but troubled man who fills the stinky air around him with harmony. They become friends but keep in mind this is not fiction. The friendship hits many bumps that continue to this day. Nathaniel Ayers Foxx's character may be a brilliant, educated musician, but he suffers from bouts of schizophrenia that manifest at any time. Downey's character accepts this as it adds more intrigue to his columns. Then he accepts it on a personal level. Their friendship ultimately becomes real and meaningful. You sense that Downey's character needs the friendship even more than Foxx's homeless man does. In the end, Downey's Lopez can see the positive effect his work has brought to the plight of the homeless, yet he wonders personally how much better he has made Nathaniel...? His reflections make us think also.Downey Jr and Foxx play their characters to near perfection and the film masterfully takes its time in developing the relationship between the two. Great to see director Joe Wright telling a contemporary tale just as effectively as he has in previous works. The film makes us wonder how many other Nathaniel Ayers are lurking out there on the streets? Life being what it is, of course we will never know. The beauty of the film is that is shows what can happen when just one Nathaniel Ayers is found after being lost for so many years. There's no sugarcoating; Ayers doesn't magically get better and rejoin mainstream society. Instead, the mainstream accepts him for what he is and what he offers and begins integrating him as best it can. This film will certainly pop up at award time next year.
I sometimes work clinically with schizophrenics. This film shows us the truth about working with severely mentally ill people. David, the man who runs the shelter for the homeless honestly spoke the truth with his stance that is opposite of what the Pharmaceutical Industry, most of psychiatry and the legal system try to make us believe. David was my hero in this movie.All though the movie goes quickly over Jamie Fox's childhood trauma and losses -- it's still there, i.e. no father and the truck on fire represent some of the traumas that created his illness. Homeless people with mental <more>
illness did not come from healthy childhoods. Almost all came from repeated childhood trauma. see New Zealand Psychologist John Read PhD and colleagues, the ACE Study from the CDC, and Charles Whitfield's book The Truth about Mental Illness, 2004 .Hollywood did not cover over the painful truths in this story. Jamie Fox's character's mother and his sister were good people and that comes through but they couldn't prevent his wounding. At the end of the film, we are told "90,000 Homeless people in Los Angeles." We walked out of the theater overwhelmed with that figure and uplifted by this true story.If you're really interested in the truth about schizophrenia there is an excellent DVD documentary called Take These Broken Wings: Recover from Schizophrenia without Medication by Daniel Mackler
Within a one-week period, I saw my second screening of this powerful movie today. I am mystified by some of the "bilious-type" reviews found here, seemingly driven by an anti-Joe Wright campaign. I found no cheap sentiments in the story line and I was awed by the high-octane performances of Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. Nothing being perfect in an imperfect world, as "adult" entertainment, "The Soloist" did not once insult my intelligence. I marveled at the complexity of the screenplay and the realization of it by its gifted director and the camera-work of <more>
Seamus McGarvey. The gifted Dario Marianelli is credited as the film's composer, anecdotally, in the gigantic shadow of Ludwig van Beethoven. Mental illness, genius, homelessness, journalism and music has rarely been so well presented as an "entertainment." Yes, Mr. Ayers is depicted as experiencing a "light show" when attending a rehearsal of the L. A. Philharmonic. At least we didn't see pink hippopotamus in tutus or dinosaurs on a rampage in a prehistoric setting. Being so accustomed to televised concerts, I expected the camera to focus on the instruments themselves in this sequence. And, "clapping pigeons." Great idea that works. A brave film directed at a "non-art house" audience. I also want to cite the wonderful work of Nelsan Ellis who plays David at LAMP. So much compassion comes off the screen with his presence. There is no way we can make "light" of the tragedy of the homeless, so many with mental illness. Thank you Mr. Steve Lopez for introducing me to Mr. Nathaniel Anthony Ayers. My life is richer for the experience. LisaGay Hamilton, as Jennifer Ayers, Nathaniel's sister, deserves recognition in a small, but pivotal role that brings dignity and catharsis to a heart-wrenching experience.
Thoughts To Prepare You for Watching the Film. (by Tom Murray)
Since Ingmar Bergman's 1962 film, "Through a Glass, Darkly", the 2009 film "The Soloist" is one of the two most accurate portrayals of schizophrenia, from the point of view of the mentally ill person and of people who want to interact with the ill person. I speak from experience. David Cronenberg's film, "Spider", is the other. I was disappointed in my two favourite critics, James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert, each of who gave "The Soloist" only 62½%. Berardinelli says, "The Soloist is afflicted with a lack of passion. The story lacks a <more>
strong trajectory; it meanders, seemingly unsure of precisely what it wants to do and say and where it wants to go." Actually, that is the reality of schizophrenia. One never knows what is going to happen next. There are many setbacks. He also says, "The soundtrack supplies multiple, overlapping voices. The objective is to invite the viewer to participate in the unhinging of Nathaniel's mind, a first-person perspective of schizophrenia. Unfortunately, it feels artificial and contrived." I have taught seven NAMI* courses on mental illness. One episode in one of the classes involves requiring class members to perform certain simple tasks while being bombarded by random voices from behind. Many class members find that to be the most unnerving, and illuminating, of all the activities in the course.Ebert misses the point when he says, "Yes, mental illness can be like that, but can successful drama? There comes a point when Lopez has had enough, and so, in sympathy, have we." Dealing with a mentally ill person can be devastatingly frustrating. Must we always be entertained? There is a place for grim reality in drama. Otherwise, how can we learn?"The Soloist" is as accurate a representation of schizophrenia as you could experience without becoming mentally ill yourself. If you keep that in mind then the film will be rewarding; if, however, you are looking for a film that makes sense easily and progresses from point to point in a logical manner, then look for a different film.If you choose to watch the film and absorb the reality of mental illness, then you will learn much. You never know when that knowledge will be of great value to you. Then again, you may be spared, and never need it.The film introduces a very important idea: mentally ill people do better if there is someone, whom they trust, who takes an abiding interest in them.It also poses one very important question: should mentally ill persons be forced to take medication to stabilize themselves? Different states, provinces and countries have different laws concerning this. Some feel that mentally ill persons should be forced to take medication if and only if they are likely to harm themselves or others. Mentally ill persons are often unaware that they are mentally ill, and cannot be convinced otherwise. Would they have more freedom to decide correctly for themselves if they were first medicated until they become sane? The film addresses this question but does not attempt to give a definitive answer. You will have to think out that question yourself, keeping in mind that different people have different reactions to the same medication. There is no universal answer, but for each individual, there is probably a best answer but not necessarily a good one.The film captivated me from the beginning to the end. I did not miss the common devices that some movies use to make them exciting. There was excitement enough for me in the growth of the principal characters and in the learning that I did, and in the thinking that I was forced to do.*NAMI is The National Alliance on Mental Illness.P.S. Schizophrenia has absolutely nothing to do with having multiple personalities, or of dichotomies apparent contradictions . The split in the expression "split personality" is the split between the personality and reality. Unfortunately, the word is misused far more often that it is used correctly.
Yes, you can trust Joe Wright with your life, without bound for two hours.Some parts of this are simply ordinary. There's the original sequence of stories which exploited the simple tension of discarded talent in a city that both worships talent and discards people wholesale. These were simple structures, headlines and patronizing prose. There's the screenplay by a hack, with simple shape and essentially no movement. In other words, forget what people usually think a movie is about: the people and the story. Those parts are missing. There is no happy ending. There is no redemption.But <more>
this has three things: madness, music and the marriage of madness and music.I saw this right after "State of Play," a traditional newspaper movie, with archetypal writer and editor. This is a modern version with two of our most folded actors: Downey and Keener. Their job is simple: define an edge between internal and external. The coupled acting here is not between Downey and Foxx, but between Downey and Keener playing a recently divorced couple. There's a quiet tension these two build around the absent son, whose place Foxx's character fills.Foxx makes not a character but an phenomenon, an experience, this experience of madness in music. He is helped by being placed amid folks who we are told are "real disturbed people." What Wright has is a fairly vacuous notion of madness, but a sublime talent in expressing it cinematically. Some of his tricks are trivial when considered independently: a cutout of Ayers getting smaller and "disappearing into" the music; a cheesy light show to Beethoven; an attempt to conflate voices in the head to music in the head. This latter is very real but the expression is cheap.While they seem trite individually, none are used heavily or relied on. And the effect when combined with more masterly things produces a symphony of excess. Downey's character remarks on the sheer depth, the love the penetration in describing just this very thing we see. It works. Music, indeed all real paths through passion are madness. Every adventure into commitment is a step outside safety of self.Wright knows this. He feels it. He can show it. I can trust him with my life. Its madness to do so, but I recommend it to you.Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
Columnist Steve Lopez Robert Downey Jr. is at a dead end. The newspaper business is in an uproar, his marriage to a fellow journalist has fallen apart and he can't entirely remember what he loved about his job in the first place. Then, one day, while walking through Los Angeles' Skid Row, he sees the mysterious bedraggled figure Nathaniel Ayers Jamie Foxx , pouring his soul into a two-stringed violin.At first, Lopez approaches Ayers as just another story idea in a city of millions. But as he begins to unearth the mystery of how this alternately brilliant and distracted street <more>
musician, once a dynamic prodigy headed for fame, wound up living in tunnels and doorways, it sparks an unexpected quest. Imagining he can change Ayers' life, Lopez embarks on a quixotic mission to get him off the streets and back to the world of music.But even as he fights to save Ayers' life, he begins to see that it is Ayers—with his unsinkable passion, his freedom-loving obstinacy and his valiant attempts at connection and love—who is profoundly changing Lopez.Evren Buyruk from USA
A solid drama on a human scale (by MalcolmJTaylor)
After catching snippets of the lackluster reviews two-stars in the Globe and Mail I was dis-heartened. It's been a few months since I'd been moved by the trailer. However, the film never came out. I thought it might have been shelved.I was glad to see it was indeed playing. In spite of the reviews, I persevered on the strength of the trailer. It seemed to me there was too much talent and pedigree involved for it to actually suck. And you know what? it's a terrific film with a poignant story. Perhaps lower expectations propped up my perceptions of it, however, it still stands as <more>
time well spent.The film is based on a true story involving a top columnist at the LA Times, Steve Lopez, played with grace by Robert Downey Jr., who becomes invested in one of his more colourful subjects, Nathaniel Ayers, an accomplished musician overcome by mental illness, now living on the streets of LA portrayed by Jamie Foxx, who rambles his way to a convincing performance.The film is a satisfying adult drama that doesn't lose it's direction. It doesn't pander to it's audience. There is no random violence, no guns, but indeed simply good story telling with great characterizations. It's a decent film that deserves better treatment in the press. It has a noble heart that succeeds in telling a great human story.It resonates and strikes a chord.
Wright, Downey and Foxx are good enough artists to lift this above its Oscar bait plot (by zetes)
This film was supposed to be a major competitor for the Oscars last year, but Paramount bumped it to a few months later. Despite the mixed reviews the film has received, I believe it would have been a major contender. I honestly think Paramount's decision not only ruined its chances for Oscars, it gave the impression that there was something wrong with the picture. There isn't, really. The subject matter does scream "Oscar Bait", with Robert Downey Jr. playing a newspaper columnist who writes about a schizophrenic genius musician Jamie Foxx who is homeless on the streets <more>
of L.A. We all remember Shine. Shine was pretty good if entirely made up, as we later discovered . The Soloist is probably a little better. I think it's stronger because of its exploration of the relationship between the two central characters. Both Downey and Foxx are extremely good; both are award-worthy. This material could easily have been cheesy Oscar bait, but director Joe Wright Pride and Prejudice and Atonement is a virtuoso himself. The way he uses image and sound move the story along beautifully, not allowing the clichés to clog up the film.
"THE SOLOIST" – Alone on MANY different levels (by jimchudnow-1)
Per an advance preview: JAMIE FOXX does a fantastic job playing a homeless guy in Los Angeles who was once a gifted musician at Julliard who later developed various schizophrenic & emotional problems as he wanders the rough streets. This film tells the true story of how a local newspaper columnist finely played by ROBERT DOWNEY JR. chances to meet Foxx, writes about his story, and his many efforts to try to make life EASIER for him-- by encouraging him to return to playing the cello, to find a safer and better place to live and to interact with other homeless people. Because of the <more>
difficulties inherent in Foxx's psyche, his ramblings & recurrent departures from reality, Downey has a frequently tricky and demanding time in dealing with him and others in his life including his ex-wife & co-worker CATHERINE KEENER . The film effectively portrays the young Foxx, his growth and his later descent into a life filled with problems. It's not always easy to deal with, but it's uplifting seeing the progress that the homeless and otherwise disadvantaged can make.