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Thoughts To Prepare You for Watching the Film.
Tom Murray16 June 2009
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 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.
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A solid drama on a human scale
MalcolmJTaylor28 April 2009
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 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.
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Uplifting: Finding a Golden Needle in the Haystack of Urban Blight
LAKERS3423 April 2009
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 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.
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A True Story About Urban Homelessness
Lechuguilla24 April 2009
What makes this film watchable is that it is based on a true story. A caring Los Angeles reporter named Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) tries to help a homeless man named Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Jamie Foxx).

Ayers suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. But he once attended Julliard, and he still lives and breathes the music of Beethoven. Ayers, with his shopping cart of possessions, walks the streets, playing his violin amid the noise of the freeway. He's content, in his own world.

That unusual behavior grabs the attention of Lopez, no doubt as a human interest story for his own column. But as Lopez gradually becomes more genuinely concerned about Ayers, their relationship encounters frustration, anger, and emotional pain.

It's a poignant, gritty story, full of realism. The film manages to be compassionate without being patronizing. The film does a terrific job in portraying the harsh, depressing reality of the boarders who live at a large shelter where Ayers goes, at the insistence of Lopez.

Technical elements of the film are good. The visuals are thematically impressive. Production design and costumes are detailed and realistic. Acting is credible. Robert Downey, Jr. gives a fine performance.

The main problem is the plot. Too much time is spent on Lopez and his trivialities. Somehow, the compelling Ayers story morphs into a weighty examination of Lopez and his distress in dealing with Ayers. The script is to blame here. I think if the main character had been Ayers, instead of Lopez, the film could have been quite inspiring.

Even so, the film clearly calls attention to the plight of the urban homeless. As such, the film deserves viewer support.
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Anything but Typical: Tells an Extremely Interesting and Unusual Story Which Refuses to Conform to Formulaic Conventions!
KissEnglishPasto2 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
.......................................................from Pasto,Colombia...Via: L.A. CA., CALI, COLOMBIA and ORLANDO, FL

True Stories are my favorite genre. The SOLOIST was a real eye-opener and gave me a real "Ah-Ha" moment! Typically, despite being true stories, (or a good facsimile) the genre is rather formulaic, when you come right down to it. Person A has problem X, (Some seemingly insurmountable disease or injury or condition or adversity or a confluence of 2 or more of the above!) and through inspirational effort and persistence, defying all odds, Person A manages to overcome problem X and we ALL feel uplifted in the end!

The SOLOIST is anything but typical. It tells an extremely interesting and unusual story which refuses to conform to the formulaic conventions to which we have, unfortunately, become so complacently accustomed. There are three factors which contribute to creating false expectations for SOLOIST.

First, the title itself is somewhat misleading. Watch the movie, and you'll see for yourself!

Second, the trailer is edited so as to create expectations geared to coincide more with the genre's formulaic audience comfort zone. The very thing the movie so painstakingly avoids!

And third, the very same set of entrenched genre clichés we have already mentioned, in other words, the baggage viewers bring with them into the theater!

****Possible Very MINOR SPOILER Ahead!****

Putting all of this aside, SOLOIST derives its tremendous energy and appeal from the undeniable on-screen chemistry of Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Their interaction is a joy to watch. The story does provide the standard genre buzz-words…Uplifting, Inspirational and Motivational…but for reasons that would be virtually impossible to predict before experiencing the film itself!

Oh, and the music is sublime! Classical music Lovers are in for a veritable treat! There are elements of SOLOIST that will make some viewers squirm. Third world neighborhoods, right here, in downtown Los Angeles, for example. Scenes from SOLOIST have been ricocheting around my brain since yesterday!


Any comments, questions or observations, in English or Español, are most welcome!
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The Truth about Schizophrenia
bw1112 May 2009
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 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
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Music Menanced By Madness
claygoul-13 May 2009
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 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.
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"The Soloist" Will Carry You Home
jon.h.ochiai26 April 2009
Robert Downey Jr. is amazing in Joe Wright's "The Soloist". Downey is powerful, and embodies such humanity and compassion. His performance is never self-conscious, all about the character and the story. There is a quiet scene where Downey's Steve Lopez confesses to his ex-wife Mary (wonderful Catherine Keener) about Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), "He's got a gift…" But Steve is at the breaking point in his efforts in helping the disturbed former child protégée. Keener consoles, "You are not going to cure him… All you can do is be his friend." "The Soloist" is brilliant in its catharsis and simplicity. Director Joe Wright ("Atonement") literally orchestrates powerful and touching performances from Downey and Foxx. Screenwriter Susannah Grant does a virtuoso translation of Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez's book. I loved "The Soloist". "The Soloist" is so compelling in its humanity.

Based on a true story, "The Soloist" tells the story of Steve's (Downey) friendship with Nathaniel (Foxx). By accident L.A. Times writer Steve Lopez meets Nathaniel Ayers on his lunch break in the park. The homeless Nathaniel is playing Beethoven on his two string violin. Nathaniel admits to Steve, "…I've had a few set backs." Steve sees a potential story in this—for him. After initial research, Steve discovers that Nathaniel was a student at Julliard, who mysteriously dropped out in 1970. Through Grant's narrative we learn that the musical genius Nathaniel may have battled schizophrenia since childhood.

"The Soloist" follows Steve's journey to salvage Nathaniel's life. Wright and Grant also make us aware of the plight of the homeless in Los Angeles, and the efforts of such noble causes as LAMP. They also provide insight into the pain and suffering of the mentally ill and challenged. To that end Jaime Foxx is defined authenticity. As Nathaniel, Foxx brilliantly stays the course, because his character will not change. That transformation is left to Downey's Steve, who must deliver on their partnership. Downey astounds. He is so believable and compelling as the good and decent man doing his best, and at a loss as to what to do. At one story arc, Nathaniel tells Steve, "I love you." That is not what Steve wanted to hear, because now he is responsible for another. He confesses to the LAMP director, "I don't want to be his only thing!"

The most astounding thing about Downey's compassionate performance is displayed when he is listening and in his silence. There is a breathtaking scene where Steve gives Nathaniel a cello, and eyes widen as he listens to Nathaniel play. He and Foxx have a touching screen partnership. I was in awe in a scene where Downey and Foxx sit together and listen to a Los Angeles Symphony rehearsal at the Disney Concert Hall.

"The Soloist" at times is off paced and is distracted by some narrative turns. However, it has great heart. Jaime Foxx is compelling and true. Robert Downey Jr. is electrifying. This is truly his movie—he is awesome. In the words of Downey's Steve, "Being his friend will carry you home." See "The Soloist", and allow yourself to be moved.
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Wright, Downey and Foxx are good enough artists to lift this above its Oscar bait plot
zetes26 April 2009
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 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.
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Nathaniel only has one thing going for him,.. a friend
Ramascreen19 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
THE SOLOIST is a powerful, heartfelt, emotionally moving, human drama with two incredibly talented actors who give their all. It is every bit as wonderful as what it promises. Definitely one of the best films of the year. If you're looking for... an inspiring story, well then look no further. This is another accomplishment by Director Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) I've always known Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. are two great actors respectively but the mix of two is like combining two different formulas that compliment each other and create an atomic chemistry only described as something that no one else will ever manage to replicate. They can try but won't come out as good as these two.

This is Jamie Foxx's best performance since Ray, and I'd vouch for a second nomination on the horizon. Robert Downey Jr. proves that he's versatile, that he's more than just Tony Stark and he still got pieces of greatness from when he played Chaplin years ago.

We can't really compare the two characters with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man because unlike that movie, in this one, Downey's character, Lopez, doesn't try to take advantage of Jamie's character's, Nathaniel's musical talent. In fact, Lopez thinks that by fixing Nathaniel then maybe he could fix his broken marriage, he thinks that by fixing Nathaniel, he could fix L.A., he thinks that by fixing Nathaniel, all his writing and columns and accomplishment could mean something. But the problem is Nathaniel doesn't want to be fixed.

Sometimes, the only way to heal somebody is just be a good friend in need. Sometimes we gotta accept the fact that some things can't be fixed and that being there for someone speaks louder than our aimless effort to turn them into something they're not.

Nathaniel's love of music is his only connection to what's left that's good in his life, in the midst of chaos and confusion. A friend makes that connection even stronger.

That's what I love about this movie, the story.

Joe Wright's directing is superb, he understands the plot and how the actors should respond to whatever conflict that may surface. The locations chosen or how a scene would play out, his vision of it all is borderline perfect. The portrayal of the skid row and how the camera moves from one homeless guy to another and take us on this view of the forgotten little kingdom is quite humbling. Those of us who've seen the real LA would not find this to be an exaggeration. Director of Photography Seamus McGarvey should definitely be nominated again for the Cinematography, which is absolutely brilliant --Rama's SCREEN--
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The plot thinnens
doctorsmoothlove16 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The Soloist has all ingredients to impress the Academy. Its director, Joe Wright, has already authored a best picture candidate. The leading actor, Robert Downey Jr., starred in a widely praised superhero film. Finally, the movie itself is a drama. When it was mysteriously pulled from release in late 2008, filmgoers and critics were baffled. Now that I've seen it, I assure you Universal didn't just delay this film to promote Iron Man-Oscar buzz. The Soloist is a weak drama with no external conflict that is vastly inferior to any 2009 best picture candidates.

Downey and co-star Jamie Fox aren't to be blamed for this mishap. Joe Wright is largely at fault but even he can't save a Lifetime story. Many movies are too complex and alienate viewers. This one is unusually simple. It's a movie about a newspaper reporter, Steve Lopez (Downey), who befriends a homeless musician, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Fox). That's it. Ayers is schizophrenic and doesn't resonate with Lopez's traditional approach to friendship. The two become friends. They begin this movie as acquaintances and are BFFs by its end. Tension consists of moments like this: will Ayers let Lopez take him to the homeless shelter? This material would have been better suited as a made-for-TV production rather than a feature film.

Wright includes many scenes of cheap humor to obscure the lack of content. Lopez battles yard-defiling raccoons in what I consider a sub-plot. Do you remember when this happened in Atonement or Pride and Prejudice? Those films were structured enough to permit an occasional joke but nothing so prolonged. Ayers' back story is fleshed out when it doesn't need to be. Worst of all, these scenes are not connected and appear at random intervals. It's a way of admitting that the main story carries little appeal. Nathaniel was a violin prodigy with a tough upbringing (I was too). This is a fabricated attempt to create sympathy with Ayers when most of us already have it. He's a homeless schizophrenic for crying out loud! The movie somewhat conveys humanity's love for music, like Amadeus and Beethoven Lives Upstairs. It isn't as effective as either of those pictures, however. The entire film is hinged on Ayers' schizophrenia. It ultimately is how he interacts with everyone else. His being a musician is a nice touch but hardly worth including. The film doesn't incorporate this characteristic fully into his persona. Take music out of Amadeus or Beethoven Lives Upstairs, and no film remains. The Soloist is more about friendship in general than music. Nathaniel could be a writer or film critic and few lines of dialog would need to be seriously altered.

This is only Joe Wright's third film, and his first that isn't a romance staring Keira Knightley. Let's hope this film isn't an indication of how limited his abilities are. There are stylistic nods to his earlier works but The Soloist is much weaker than either of them. In his defense, Universal should not have agreed to widely release this picture. This film seems tailored for Imagine Entertainment (distributors of Changeling). I wouldn't be so disappointed with it if had a limited release. Its poor box office performance may inhibit better dramas from being distributed nationally.
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The Soloist a great movie not to be missed!!!
MovieCriticMarvelfan23 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Saw this movie at a screening last year, yet this movie stuck with me back then as it still does now (Many spoilers follow below):

Based on a true story and a book The Soloist is a special movie that might end up getting serious Academy Award attention (don't know why it got delayed last year when it easily could have been nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting actor at this year's Oscars). This story takes place in Los Angeles and has a lot to say about LA (Namely dirty politics, the homeless problem specifically in Skid Row but can be attributed to the whole state, and mental illness) it was a must see. The fact that there were two great actors in the lead Jamie Foxx (Ray)and Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) was enough for me to see it. The movie is about a homeless musician with schizophrenia. At least that's part of the story, this a movie that has a story within a story. We learn about the brilliance of Nathaniel Ayers Jr. played with stunning excellence by Foxx.

Ayers for whatever reason developed schizophrenia but was a brilliant cello and violin player with a love for Beethoven. LA Times journalist, Steve Lopez (Downey) does something that not many journalists do when he reaches to Ayers for help seeing his brilliant playing (not too mention the circumstances which he lives in which are to say the least inhumane but no one gives a damn about except the homeless shelter Ayers visits.) and hoping that he can fulfill his dreams of sharing his brilliant gift of playing music.

Lopez really doesn't know what he is getting himself into as Ayers schizophrenia often poses numerous problems not just for Ayers health but any potential rewarding job opportunities. Both Foxx and Downey play these parts great. They really are some of the best actors in the business today. Like I said a story within a story, we see the homeless problem in Skid Row (although really all of California like other states has a big homeless problem). We see REALLY NO ASSISTANCE for the homeless. Then the Mayor makes some speech promising to help the homeless but as with most politicians most of their promises are crap as we see a sweep (really a beat down of the homeless by the pigs, I mean cops of LA). This is something that is done in other cities for whatever reason (I guess maybe the mentality is if they get rid of the homeless and move them out of the area no one will realize there is a problem).

Anyhow, I really liked the director's guts (Joe Wright) to show not just Nathaniel's story but the story of other homeless people and poor people of the area. This could have been one of those garbage "Hollywood ending" movies where everybody gets saved but Joe Wright presents the real consequences and results of situations. Anyways, this is a great, great movie that is not to be missed. It's not a Shine ripoff!!! You know they throw around a lot of exaggerated phrases like "this is the Best movie I've seen in years", "This movie is mesmerizing",. " It will tug away at your heart", but really this is a movie that lives up to all that and more.

I've also started reading the real book "The Soloist" by Steve Lopez. I would also highly recommend reading the book as it will give your more details about Ayers and more insight from Lopez himself in learning about his new friend and what others with schizophrenia go through. It's a great book. This movie really is one of the best movies I've seen in a while by two great actors.
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Lacked development....
imdbbl9 September 2009
Steve Lopez is a Los Angeles Times columnist in need of a decent story.One day he encounters,by chance, Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless schizophrenic street musician with an abundance of talent.Lopez writes a series of articles about Nathaniel and tries to help him, to improve his conditions of living and gives him a chance to showcase his talent however Nathaniel's disease has created demons that he can't ignore and Lopez sees most of his efforts frustrated...To be honest I was expecting a way better movie, I saw the trailer months ago and it got me excited, the movie seemed to have all the ingredients to be a success,plus two amazing actors, Robert Downey Jr as Lopez and Jammie Foxx as Nathaniel.However, I felt disappointed.Lopez struggle to reach to Nathaniel and his constant efforts to help him were interesting to watch but that is pretty much everything that happens in the movie.In the end almost everything looks the same as in the beginning and not much has happened.Sure, Lopez had a small yet positive impact on Nathaniel's life and he,himself, might have gained a little something from that relationship too but I was expecting a wider range of events so to speak...I'm not saying that he should have been cured by the end of the film, as much as Hollywood loves happy endings that would be unrealistic but I did expect something to happen...some kind of development that would make this story worth telling.It never came. Maybe this story(based on real events) just doesn't translate very well to the big screen.I think the film aspired to be great but felt short.On a more positive note, Jamie Foxx's performance was great and felt very authentic.

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Interesting to know
benjybass26 April 2009
I am a musician and live in France, where the release date of this movie is scheduled for Sept. 2 2009. I obviously cannot write a review at the present time but have nevertheless read the book.

What no one mentions in all of the above comments is that Nathaniel Ayers was originally a Double Bass student at Julliard and NOT a cellist. That instrument-- along with the violin, trumpet, and piano, all came about later on. Put any instrument into his hands and he'll do his best to master it.

Having attended Yale university, I did not know him personally, even though we studied with one of the greatest bass teachers in the New York area at that time: Homer Mensch. Recently our paths did finally cross thanks to one of our mutual acquaintances, bassist and composer Joe Russo. Nathan likes to write down the names of his long lost good friends on walls, or any writing surface, and Joe's name is always there, scribbled amongst his favorites. This was where Steve noticed Joe's name and Googled him to look up his website. A new and close friendship resulted between them, and the many anecdotes that Joe pulled out of Nathan's past were worth their weight in gold to Steve, enough to devote the entire chapter 8 of the book to Joe!

To me, reading this book made me come to the conclusion that every man has his hour in life, and Nathan's time had come now. The chances of 2 men, one homeless and one not, being pulled together through the sound of a violin in a rush hour tunnel, were undoubtedly written in the stars. Through articles, a book and now a film on Nathan, Steve helped uplift a poor and abandoned part of society to a rank that it never imagined nor asked for, but morally deserved. We all know that the Internet is indeed capable of connecting and reconnecting people in the present, but only music can magically, throughout time, open the doors that connect all of us to one another.
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a poisonous message
rupie26 December 2016
I really wondered what the point of this movie was, and about two-thirds of the way through the light dawned. This is a "message" movie, and the message is a poisonous one.

Sometime in the 60's we as a nation became revolted at conditions in our mental institutions, which were indeed horrific and grotesque. This is where society had warehoused everyone whose mental conditions were so extreme that even their own families could not cope with them. Government being what it is, it was never to be expected that these poor souls would get compassionate treatment.

So it was decided to grant these individuals their "rights" and release them all to the street. There was supposed to be a wave of neighborhood mental health clinics to look after them; that never transpired. As a result these poor souls now live in the street and often pose a safety risk to others. Jails and prisons are now the front line in dealing with the mentally ill.

Unfortunately a whole movement has arisen advocating for the "rights" of these people to live as they are, i.e. as mentally unbalanced people. The sad thing is that, with proper medication, many of these folks could be restored to some semblance of normality.

In clearly siding with the "right" of Nathaniel not to be medicated, this movie, in my view, sends a very toxic message whose upshot is that these people should be allowed to live their lives of misery and to continue to pose a threat to - dare I utter the word? - "normal" people. The issue of how we deal with our mentally ill is a complex and thorny one, but I don't think it's useful to maintain that it's just dandy not to treat them.
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Film seems to claim schizophrenics don't need medication?
kyrat28 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I know someone with schizophrenia. He needs to be medicated in order to function. While medicated he can function normally (work, play music, be married), when unmedicated he becomes paranoid, self destructive & suicidal.

Therefore it really saddened me that the LAMP director argued against medicating Nathaniel (of course he doesn't want it, he can't tell he's crazy!) and even after a violent attack against Lopez, he doesn't take the steps necessary to get help for Nathaniel.

Yes, support and friendship are important, but when you can't differentiate between reality and delusion, when voices in your head control your actions, you do need medical intervention.
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Such high hopes have diminished into sheer disappointment.
JungleBunnyBastard26 April 2009
Made watchable through it's rich performances (especially Robert Downey Jr.) and it's beautiful music, but the film feels like it's trying to hard to cover too much ground while at the same time beating you over the head with humanitarian elements that really have no place or room.

A friendship is formed between a divorced writer and a homeless, schizophrenic musician when they have a chance meeting. What could have been a great story about friendship went heavy handed and up it's own ass in little messages that by the end of the film I, in a way, felt cheated. I felt like they were teasing me with a good story and actors but instead decided to give me pointless intersections throughout (don't even get me started on Nathaniel Ayers' "flashbacks" and "thoughts").

The film would have been better if they had concentrated on the point of view of Robert Downey, Jr.'s character and not try to dive into Ayers' psyche. That made it seem hokey and with the addition of what Downey's character said near the end made it that much more insulting. There was just so much stuff the filmmakers tried to cover and didn't elaborate very much on.

The performances, though, were brilliant. Foxx gets a little over-the-top with his ability to scene-chew, but Downey gives a down to earth, realistic performance. Even though they were all really good, I just kept feeling like Foxx was just trying to out-act Downey. With that said, he was still wonderful.

I don't know. Maybe I'm reading too much into it and maybe I'm just ragging on it because I didn't like it, but, oh well. I am a critic, right?
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The Other Side of the American Dream
claudio_carvalho1 April 2010
In Los Angeles, the reporter of the LA Times Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) writes the successful column Points West. After an accident with his bicycle, Steve wanders on the streets and hears a classic music being played by a homeless violinist with an out of commission violin. Steve starts a conversation with the musician fan of Beethoven Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Jr. (Jamie Foxx) and when the man tells him that he had studied cello in Juilliard, Steve researches his life and writes a series of articles in his column about the talented but mentally ill musician. He befriends the schizophrenic Nathaniel and brings him to the Lamp Community in Los Angeles. The work of Steve Lopez is awarded and he attempts to help the musician, but in his insanity, Nathaniel does not want to change his lifestyle.

"The Soloist" is apparently based on a true story of a relationship of a journalist and a schizophrenic musician and discloses the other side of the American Dream in Los Angeles with 90,000 homeless people. In this regard, this film uses a different approach of Wim Wenders' "Land of Plenty" to slightly show the reality of homeless people in Los Angeles. The problem is that apparently the columnist wrote articles and was awarded, and wrote a book that became a movie, probably making lots of money, while Nathaniel Ayers Jr. is still on the streets and sleeping in a shelter. Please excuse me if I am unfair, but the film does not show a great effort from Steve Lopez to hire a psychologist to help Nathaniel to improve his life. Further, the screenplay is cold despite the choice of two excellent actors in the lead roles. The music score with Beethoven and Bach is a plus in this deceptive film. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "O Solista" ("The Soloist")
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Two Good Strings
tedg24 April 2009
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 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.
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Uninspired retread of well-known morals…
Anonymous_Maxine29 April 2009
I'm hoping that The Soloist will come across as one of the most disappointing movies of 2009, because if we get anything more of a letdown than this it's gonna be pretty bad. I awaited the movie with enormous anticipation. Jamie Foxx has proved himself as a tremendously talented actor many times over, and Robert Downey Jr., long since one of my favorite actors, is at the height of his career with his work in movies like Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, as well as the upcoming Sherlock Holmes, Master Mind, The Avengers, and Iron Man 2.

Now, I hope I can say this without sounding like I'm really bashing the movie, because it is competently made and competently acted, but there were points in the movie where the pure badness almost approached camp. There is no doubt that the movie was green-lighted and cast with visions of Oscars dancing in the heads of Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr. and the movie's producers, but somewhere along the way there was a necessary element that just never made it into the final cut. The movie definitely has it's fans and it certainly is a moving story, but I can tell you with pretty strong certainty that there are no Oscars in The Soloist's future.

That being said, I should probably also admit that I had the hardest time putting my finger on exactly what went wrong. Maybe it is something as simple as a permeating lack of originality. Maybe the presentation of a mentally ill main character was handled without the necessary subtlety or authenticity. In Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr. himself expounded on the dangers of an actor going full retard, maybe this is a case of what happens when you go 'full crazy?' Whatever the case, I am truly sorry to say that both stars have scenes where their performances come across as almost bizarrely cheesy.

Of course it might be just me, but I doubt it.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist desperate for a good story, when he one day runs into Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a homeless man with obviously tremendous musical talent. There goes cliché number one. Through a muddled combination of personal interest and hope for the betterment of Ayers' life, Lopez makes it his life's to get Ayers off the streets, on medication, and into a successful musical career where he belongs.

It's hard not to be moved by such a story, but it's also hard to find anything original in it. It's based on a true story, even to the point of showing an incident where an elderly LA Times reader sent in her own cello, one she had been playing herself for decades, because she was so moved by Lopez's story about Ayers. The movie's presentation of this event is one of its simplest but best scenes.

But after that…what? I won't ruin the story for you, because while I found the movie disappointing, I would also say that it's not disappointing to the point that people shouldn't watch it. But it leaves you with a definite feeling that it should have been something more, or that the true story on which it's based simply doesn't have the ingredients for a successful drama. There is a point in the movie, for example, where Ayers utters the line, "If I ever see you again I'll cut you open and gut you like a fish." I appreciate the portrayal of paralyzing mental confusion, but I'm going to go ahead and suggest the majority of the audience is going to see that as a good time to turn your life- saving mission over to professionals who have some idea of what they're dealing with.

Then again, it's also exactly this kind of difficulty that has led to the most satisfying struggles against the odds in similarly uplifting movies, but The Soloist argues that friendship should be enough to overcome even the most insurmountable barriers, it takes us on this painful struggle with a damaged mind, and then, worst of all, it all leads up to one of those stupid, stupid voice-over speeches at the end that's supposed to tie everything up with a cute little bow. God I can't stand that.

Watch the movie when it comes out on DVD. It's not a complete failure, but it is much less than the sum of its parts and it gives that feeling that it is always just about to develop into something really great but it just never happens. It does a good job of approaching the difficult paradox of how far people should be able to go in efforts to force a better life on someone, but for all of the ambition clearly involved in its production, it should easily have forced out a much better movie.
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Good Acting, Bad Directing
jonkushner24 April 2009
The only good thing going for this movie was the actors it contained. The friendship between the two was not believable, the exaggerated Hollywood effects were unneeded, and the directing completely sidetracked from the concept itself. Moreover, the previews were ABSOLUTELY different than what was shown. I was EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED.

On a decent note, Jamie Fox's acting is as usual, amazing. He was absolutely right for the role, and portrayed it to the best abilities I think anyone could have done. Robert Downey Junior was OK.

NPR was absolutely correct with their review this morning, and I did not want to believe it. Shame on me for spending my money.
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Unexpectedly deep, but lacks focus
b1lskirnir24 April 2009
Previews and marketing for The Soloist give a very different image of what the film actually is about. Watching the trailer, one would think, "Oh, here's another 'feel good white-guy- meets-black-guy movie where the black guy is sincere but troubled and the white guy wants to help him but can't relate to him and has a short temper but it's okay because in the end they both learn from each others' differences' with a musical backdrop thrown in just for artistic interest- lovely! Exactly what I need to watch to feel better on a Saturday evening!"

The reality is in fact the opposite- the story ends on a somber note, occasionally plunging into melodrama, but the 'feel-good' market is indeed misleading. This is a movie that wants, tries desperately, to touch on some very serious issues, but unfortunately causes itself to become undone as a movie.

The story revolves around an LA Times columnist named Steve Lopez who stumbles across n eccentric and mentally ill homeless musician, Nathaniel, who is a musical prodigy and a Julliard dropout. At first obsessed with the story, Steve inevitably becomes involved in Nathaniel's personal life while dealing with his own issues with his ex-wife and his job.

That's all you really need to know, but even if I wanted to try to explain it further, that would prove rather difficult because the film itself doesn't even really know what it's about- is it about finding the kindness to be someone's friend, the homeless crisis in LA, dealing with people with schizophrenia, pursuing your dreams, coming to terms with not living your dreams, or even more basic, is it about Nathaniel or is it about Steve? The movie doesn't know as it bombards you with as much information as you could possibly need to know about any of that, whether its via flashback sequences about Nathaniel's past, moments where "the voices" invade Nathaniel's head and freak him out, overly dramatic scenes involving policemen arresting homeless people, an excessive amount of really irrelevant time in Steve's office and about a head injury of his, and multiple musical montage scenes to Beethoven, one involving helicopter shots and pigeons, and another involving an uninterrupted three minutes of color splashing across the screen rhythmically.

With that said, it's very well-acted. When director Joe Wright isn't throwing as many different things together in the editing room as he possibly can, Robert Downery Jr. and Jamie Foxx put together a fantastic on-screen duo that actually manages to defy the clichés that one might expect. Jamie Foxx especially makes the character his own to the extent that he is almost unrecognizable, both in speech, mannerism, and physical appearance from anything else he's ever done. The two of them together make the film memorable and it is their lack of ability to understand one another that essential makes the best drama of the film. Without it, everything else going on in Steve's life- the quest for the next big story and the problems with the ex-wife, falls flat of any real dramatic significance.

The film wants to be so much. It wants to be so much so badly it feels like it doesn't even care if it's a movie at all. It has moments of ingenuity, but it could've been so much more powerful if it were just a story about either one man's love for music or one man's choice to change someone else's life rather than trying to throw as many different punches as possible.
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Master cast. Admirable characters, True story, real characters, so lots of acting courage, but not so much inspirational...
bopdog25 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
MAJOR SPOILERS!!! Is the writing spot-on? Yes. Is the acting performed by very likable masters of the art, and with great skill? Yes. Is the story worth telling? Probably. Is this one of those uplifting and light filled movies of redemption? Erm... not so much. It is based on a true story, and life isn't always so pretty. This movie is NOT pretty! The trailers implied there would be beautiful music, and the beauty of the music and the very act of learning (once again) to re-create it would save a soul. Again, not so much. Nathaniel Ayres Jr. is/was a genuinely crazy man. Not cute. His personality and demeanour, on the surface, anyway, are marbled with profound humility and heartbreaking misfortune. One hopes, and because it's a movie, expects, him to be lifted out of it.

Again, the trailer has a voice-over of Steve Lopez, played with superb honesty and courage (because he is, alas, no miracle worker. He is only human, like the rest of us) has been greatly edited. His words about friendship, and the real-person/character of Ayres, end with something about "This friendship, in the end, takes you home." In the actual movie, you hear the whole paragraph, and it is, again, more ordinary, more human.

Are the people in this movie admirable? Yes. Inspirational? Not so much.

Acting praise must go to Katherine Keener, Jamie Foxx, and Downey Jr. God, they are good.
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Worth watching for free.
choylifutsouth18 June 2009
Another vain attempt to be a candidate for the Oscar. This movie would of been better if it was an hour and twenty minutes long. But it was obvious that, after an hour and a half the director was on a mission to bored you to death with unnecessary melodrama. I really liked the cast and thought they did a great job with what they were given to work with. These type of movie usually have me teary eyed at some point. This one however, had me wanting to gouge out my eyes. It literally just keep on going, and going, and going, with no end in site!

Watch it if you get a chance. Watch it if you have 2 hrs that you absolutely have to waste. And watch it only if you can do it for free.
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Not for us!
phllpkng3 August 2009
Dire!. Not a film that worked for me or the friends I sat and watched it with. The story was too thin, poorly scripted and in my opinion poorly directed. One of it's many sins was the scene which involved a kaleidescope of colours which changed and kept in sync with the music which was playing in the background?. I am amazed anyone thought that scene would be visually entertaining or that it would 'add' something to the film. The mental heath issues suffered by main character was drawn out and constantly revisited. Once you've established his state of mind I see little reason to keep banging on about it. The film also failed to tell us enough about the main characters for us to get drawn in, by the and of the film I felt little sympathy for them and was pleased it was over.
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