Life has a mind of its own …
Genre: Drama, Biography
The verdict: Loved
The gist: Columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) needs a story. Just when he’s nearly ready to give up on finding anything of any value, he happens upon Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) – a homeless man living in LA’s Skid Row, playing a two-stringed violin. Amidst his stream of consciousness Ayers mentions he attended Juliard – that he’s “had a few setbacks.” Lopez discovers that Ayers was never trained on the violin, but the bass, that he did, indeed, attend Juliard for a time, that he dropped out due to mental illness. Finally, he has his story; but over time, he realizes he has much, much more …
My take: Based on the book by Steve Lopez, The Soloistis a powerful, heartfelt drama that truly does portray the way in which life has a mind of its own. Joe Wright orchestrates the film with intent. Much like life, it’s not clean and tidy. There are times when the creative direction can be a bit distracting – the voices Ayers hears, for instance. However, it does give a glimpse at what it would be like – and let’s be serious, it would be a little more than distracting. Susannah Grant (screenwriter) throws in humor every now and again, so the film does not get overly bogged down with drama. And the actors – Robert Downey, Jr., Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener (who plays Lopez ex-wife) – offer superb performances. Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of the film is the humanity. The cinematography surrounding the homeless and the destitute is awe inspiring in itself – for amidst the chaos, lies a certain dignity. It is a story of a story … a story of life’s setbacks … of friendship … of letting go … and coming home.
An aside: The Soloist has received mixed reviews – possibly more than usual. More than likely this is dependent upon two things: The release date was pushed back, which people view as a very bad sign; and the subject matter is difficult. We like things clean and tidy; things like homelessness or mental illness we’d rather pretend doesn’t exist, or – like Lopez – we want them fixed. Railing against these points, however, is a pity – because so much is missed. The performances truly are Oscar-worthy. And the story – while it may be difficult at times – is one we should hear. If you’ve been wondering whether or not to spend your time and money on this film, I would recommend it.