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Sometimes people randomly cross paths, and forever will be changed. That's the subtle, yet profound, message of The Soloist, a deeply moving and deeply human film about people and what, and whom, they connect with. Robert Downey Jr., who is effortlessly charismatic, plays Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, whose job it is to report on the character and characters, of Southern California. But even a (slightly) jaded reporter can be profoundly touched by a story he reports on, and then allows to unfold in real time. The subject of Lopez's column is Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx, also in a stellar turn), a homeless street musician whose lovely music--played on a battered two-string violin--Lopez hears one day on a walk not far from the Times office. Lopez learns Ayers once attended Juilliard before mental illness sent him into a spiral, and the column detailing Ayers' journey touches the community--as well as both men. The film (based on Lopez's book, follows the halting journey of their friendship, and how sometimes people's lives can't be fixed. Director Joe Wright (Atonement) cast real homeless Angelenos in the many street and social services scenes, giving the film an even more heart-wrenching and realistic patina. If the film doesn't always live up to its high aspirations (the trippy effects, which supposedly show what Ayers sees when he hears Beethoven, are straight out of a 1968 light show), it nonetheless has a big heart. And in an era in which newspapers are struggling to survive, it's heartening to see a contemporary story about a newspaper that can still affect change. --A.T. Hurley
Stills from The Soloist (Click for larger image)
Academy Awardr nominee Robert Downey Jr. and Academy Awardr winner Jamie Foxx star in an extraordinary and inspiring true story of how a chance meeting can change a life. The Soloist tells the poignant and ultimately soaring tale of a Los Angeles newspaper reporter who discovers a brilliant and distracted street musician, with unsinkable passion, and the unique friendship and bond that transforms both their lives. The remarkable performances make for an unforgettable experience in what is hailed as 'a courageous and uncompromising film.' (Gene Shalit, Today).
I think it's quite extraordinary that none of the reviews of the Soloist discuss the use of Beethoven's work in the film, which in my view reveals a shocking ignorance on the part of the critics. For example, the use of the cello part from the rondo of the second movement (the funeral march) of the 3rd symphony is brilliant, and reveals far more than just the playing skill of Ayres. Ditto the use of the Triple Concerto, various string quartets, less well-known parts of the 9th Symphony, all of which brilliantly move from the cello parts to the lager ensemble and back. It's a moving, innovative, and gorgeous use of Beethoven's work, and it makes a much larger point that the critics seem to miss entirely: Beethoven's work, most of all is about transcendence, the brotherhood of mankind, and the profound spiritual value of music. That's how the Soloist uses the composers's work to tell the story. Beethoven and music are Ayres' path to transcendence, and the way Beethoven's work is handled in the film makes this point clearly. The Soloist is worth seeing (and hearing) for the music alone.
People who see this film as a political statement miss the whole point.
Having casually checked this out recently, knowing absolutely nothing about the film beforehand except from its brief description on cable, which sounded interesting to me, I was and will forever continue to be, stunned by how great this movie is, for me at least. I have since watched extended parts of it as well as the whole thing, several times, have permanently recorded it onto DVD for future enjoyment, and my initial reactions remain the same with each viewing. This is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. The fact that this didn't really make any box office buzz or profit is not surprising, given the subject matter. But the generally favorable but highly mixed, both positive and negative feelings and opinions about it from other reviewers and critics, and especially the lack of industry awards for this (i.e., Golden Globes, Oscars, etc.), are puzzling to me.
IMHO, this film is simply wonderful throughout, beginning to end, and has moved me to very moist eyes upon each and every viewing, tears of both profound sadness and sublime joy alike. I suspect that most people who have seen this, and have given it thumbs down, are missing the boat here. Although I always try to give, at times grudgingly, respect for the opinions, beliefs, and feelings of intelligent, enlightened folks, no matter what the film, I find it hard to fathom how and why anyone could watch this, stick with it to the end, and not see this as something really special.
The first time I watched this "cold," knowing almost nothing about it and only later discovering that it was all based upon a true story and the characters based upon real people, I nonetheless strongly suspected such was the case early on in the film and to the finish.Read more ›
This movie is primarily about the relationship between the weary journalist and the homeless artist, and Downey and Foxx give great performances. It sensitively deals with issues of charity and friendship in ways that challenge conventional ideals, and I liked the fact that in the end, Downey's character seems content to stop playing the role of "rescuer" and instead lets events play out to their natural conclusion. In fact, Foxx's character, for all the mental distress he faces, seems more grounded at times than Downey's character, and you might wonder whether the soloist refers to the cello virtuoso or the journalist who seems to learn what it means to be a friend rather than going solo through life. In that respect, it's a show that operates effectively on more than a superficial level.
Now if they could just have spent a little more time coaching Foxx on his fake cello-playing skills...alas.
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If there were ever any doubt that Robert Downey Jr. is one of our best current actors out there, then this film should put them to rest. Still having doubts? Check out his more current resume: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Good Night and Good Luck, Iron Man, and his amazing Tropic Thunder. And these are just a select few that I've cherry picked. This isn't to say that Jamie Foxx (Dreamgirls) didn't do a great job. It's just that Downey Jr. is showing up in some awfully great roles and performing them to perfection, as witnessed here in THE SOLOIST.
This is a story close to my heart. Similar in theme to Lars and the Real Girl, this story doesn't circle around a town coming together to help one man's pysche. This story is about two men who orbit in entirely different galaxies and how a passing swipe ends up creating a lifetime friendship. Yes, there's the mental illness aspect to it and Foxx plays the role of Nathaniel Ayers exceptionally well. His schizophrenia is obvious, and living on the streets hasn't helped. And when newspaper reporter Steve Lopez (Downey Jr.) tries finding a story to write about, he stumbles upon Nathaniel's past as a Juilliard Music School drop-out.Read more ›
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