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The Soloist

3.5 7
Director: Joe Wright

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener


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Academy Award-nominated Atonement director Joe Wright teams with screenwriter Susannah Grant to tell the true-life story of Nathaniel Ayers, a former cello prodigy whose bouts with schizophrenia landed him on the streets after two years of schooling at Juilliard. Steve Lopez


Academy Award-nominated Atonement director Joe Wright teams with screenwriter Susannah Grant to tell the true-life story of Nathaniel Ayers, a former cello prodigy whose bouts with schizophrenia landed him on the streets after two years of schooling at Juilliard. Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) is a disenchanted journalist stuck in a dead-end job. His marriage to a fellow journalist having recently come to an end, Steve is wandering through Los Angeles' Skid Row when he notices a bedraggled figure playing a two-stringed violin. The figure in question is Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a man whose promising career in music was cut short due to a debilitating bout with mental illness. The more Lopez learns about Ayers, the greater his respect grows for the troubled soul. How could a man with such remarkable talent wind up living on the streets, and not be performing on-stage with a symphony orchestra? Later, as Lopez embarks on a quixotic quest to help Ayers pull his life together and launch a career in music, he gradually comes to realize that it is not Ayers whose life is being transformed, but his own.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
When The Soloist was originally intended to be a 2008 Oscar hopeful, the initial advertising campaign made it look like a cross between Shine and A Beautiful Mind. And the setup certainly smacks of Oscar bait: Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), recovering from an especially nasty bike accident, meets the homeless Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Jamie Foxx) during a walk through the park. Because Nathaniel plays a violin with just two strings -- and plays it rather well -- he catches Steve's eye, and Steve, always on the lookout for a story, strikes up a conversation. When the obviously mentally ill Nathaniel mentions that he went to Juilliard, Steve decides to investigate the man's life, and discovers that the onetime cello prodigy suffered a schizophrenic breakdown while he was at the school, leading to a life on the street. Steve proceeds to write a column about Nathaniel, and the overwhelmingly positive response to the story prompts the gift of a cello from a reader. After delivering the present to Nathaniel, Steve slowly finds himself, almost against his nature, trying to make life better for the man. This kind of movie quickly falls apart if the actors overplay the inherent sadness of the situation, and thankfully the stellar cast never makes that mistake. Although he's become more famous for performances in blockbusters like Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr. hasn't lost an ounce of his dramatic chops. He makes Steve selfish and prickly, but also so charming and funny that you understand why his subjects trust him with their life stories. You can also see why his ex-wife (Catherine Keener), who is now his boss, stays close to him even though she left their marriage. Steve begins asking himself why he cares so much about what happens to Nathaniel, questioning his own motivations -- is it really an ongoing act of selfless goodness, or is he just doing it for his career? Steve doesn't find a satisfying answer, until realizing that this new friendship offers the chance for him to become a better person. As the catalyst for Steve's change, Jamie Foxx pulls off a disciplined, subtle performance. Foxx isn't interested in earning our pity -- a choice that undermines so many actors playing mentally ill characters. You never question the debilitating nature of Nathaniel's disorder, but you also never question that he's able to take care of himself to the best of his ability, surviving -- however miserably -- in L.A.'s large homeless community. Both he and Downey avoid obvious melodramatic choices, and in doing so they create unfailingly honest portraits of complicated people. Now this all may sound like the kind of trite and sappy "feel-good" story that gives Hollywood a bad name. But director Joe Wright and screenwriter Susannah Grant maintain an emotionally controlled tone that keeps the film from sliding into goopy melodrama. They make sure Steve, not Nathaniel, is the center of the story, and by focusing more on the man who wants to help than the man who needs help, they've created a unique movie rather than just another example of cookie-cutter Oscar bait.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Paramount Catalog
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jamie Foxx Nathaniel Anthony Ayers
Robert Downey Steve Lopez
Catherine Keener Mary Weston
Tom Hollander Graham Claydon
Lisa Gay Hamilton Jennifer Ayers-Moore
Rachael Harris Leslie
Stephen Root Curt Reynolds
Nelsan Ellis David Carter
Jena Malone Lab Technician

Technical Credits
Joe Wright Director
Rikki Lea Bestall Co-producer
Tim Bevan Executive Producer
Jacqueline Durran Costumes/Costume Designer
Eric Fellner Executive Producer
Gary Foster Producer
Susannah Grant Screenwriter
Sarah Greenwood Production Designer
Russ Krasnoff Producer
Francine Maisler Casting
Dario Marianelli Score Composer
Seamus Mcgarvey Cinematographer
Jeff Skoll Executive Producer
Paul Tothill Editor
Patricia Whitcher Executive Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Soloist
1. Chapter 1 [5:14]
2. Chapter 2 [5:35]
3. Chapter 3 [3:55]
4. Chapter 4 [5:12]
5. Chapter 5 [5:57]
6. Chapter 6 [2:59]
7. Chapter 7 [7:22]
8. Chapter 8 [5:12]
9. Chapter 9 [6:01]
10. Chapter 10 [8:18]
11. Chapter 11 [2:45]
12. Chapter 12 [5:59]
13. Chapter 13 [5:52]
14. Chapter 14 [6:42]
15. Chapter 15 [5:42]
16. Chapter 16 [:52]
17. Chapter 17 [4:08]
18. Chapter 18 [8:33]
19. Chapter 19 [3:58]
20. Chapter 20 [4:28]
21. Chapter 21 [3:26]


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The Soloist 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
voteforgandalf More than 1 year ago
I only saw the movie once in theatres, but as a person concerned about mental illness this movie speaks volumes, which the other reviewers somehow didn't pick up on. That also speaks volumes--most of this society either consciously or subconciously studiously ignore people with mental illness, especially those that are homeless. THAT'S the point of the movie, not for your 'enjoyment' or 'entertainment'--it's supposed to bring light to something that has been in the dark for far too long. I would hope people on a bookstore website would be smarter than that. Evidently not. But back to the movie--if you crave enlightenment on mental illness, specifically the homeless that also have a mental illness, this is the movie for you. It's just stunning. I couldn't stop crying at the end of the movie; I had to sit through the credits before I could get a grip on myself. I'm not usually moved by movies. At least not to that degree. I would definitely recommend this movie to friends and family.
Heavy_Metal_Sushi More than 1 year ago
I didn't think this movie was all bad, but it left a little something to be desired. Good performances and based around a true story, but I was a little bored by some of it, and it left a few questions, but none the less, I still liked this movie somewhat. I would call it average. I'm not a huge fan of dramas either for that matter, but I dabble in a little of everything, so I watch some of them from time to time. If you like dramas, then by all means, I would say go ahead and buy this one, because as far as dramas are concerned, it wasn't all bad. If nothing else, it's at least worth a watch.
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Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
THE SOLOIST is a difficult film to review. First, the subject matter: a newspaper writer of a human interest column for the LA Times, with personal problems of his own, encounters a schizophrenic homeless man who spends his days playing classical music on a two string violin and provides fodder for a new human interest column - an accidental encounter that develops into a friendship and challenge and some semblance of change in the personalities of both men. Second, the cast: performances by Jamie Foxx as the gifted homeless Julliard trained cellist Nathaniel Ayers and Robert Downey, Jr. as the troubled and frustrated but kind hearted writer Steve Lopez turn in very fine and credible performances. Third, the message: calling attention to the plight of the homeless and their need for simple acts of kindness is well portrayed. Fourth, the music that serves as a character in the film: the cello solos are played with grace and style by LA Phil cellist Ben Hong and the LA Philharmonic as conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and present in the background and on the screen with in the grandeur of Disney Hall create as solid a film score as possible. Fifth, the supporting cast: with Catherine Keener in a thankless role as Lopez' boss and ex-wife, Marcos De Silvas as LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Tom Hollander as a cello instructor make the best of the poorly developed roles they are given. So what goes wrong here? For this viewer the problems lie with the screenplay by Susannah Grant, an acceptable adaptation of Steve Lopez' novel, but so loaded with LA Times promo and info and mawkish sentimentality that the story all but drowns. Director Joe Wright seems to take the stance of letting the story flow on its own, the only relief being the use of flashbacks that attempt to explain the mental and physical state of Nathaniel Ayers. This is a film that longs to be loved, but in the end it is only a passable human interest story. Grady Harp