THE SOLOIST (2009)

Directed By: Joe Wright
Written By: Susannah Grant
Based On The Book By: Steve Lopez
Cinematography By: Seamus McGarvey
Editor: Paul Tothill

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener, Stephen Root, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Rachael Harris, Tom Hollander

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.


The film is perfectly fine entertainment of a film that really doesn’t have a plot. Sure it’s a fascinating fact-based story that may have been better explored as a documentary or maybe even better reading about it, but the film leaves a lot to be desired as not much really happens. Except that it makes the main character feel better by discovering and trying to help a talented homeless schizophrenic. Which is pretty much the plot of the film.

Everyone does a perfectly serviceable performance. I really like Robert Downey Jr’s look. Jamie Foxx’s performance doesn’t really hit as hard. As it seems like his intention sure he is a spot-on mimic, but the performance seems exactly like that an act or impersonation in it’s not really ground in any sort of reality though it is based on a true story.

The film feels empty with no heart which is how the film feels. It tries to get you emotional in many scenes but fails to do so. The film plays like a contemporary movie that seems only made to try and be Oscar bait and a crowd-pleaser. Like the film THE BLIND SIDE only the latter seemed to know how to appeal to the masses this film seems more directed at a more artsy audience. That is why it feels so basic with artistic touches and indulgence.

Other than the two main characters we really never get to know any characters. This is especially daunting as the film has an established supporting cast. So we never get to know the past of the main characters as far as what they tell us. Like we know Steve, as played as Downey Jr., has demons but we only get hints at it. But in the film, we are supposed to believe he faces his own to help another person but other than having serious looks on his face and seeming vulnerable we never know exactly what he has to overcome.

The film also introduces a character who insists that Jamie Foxx’s Character needs to find god and religion, but the first time he suggests it he goes ape-shit. So when right before a recital he tries the same plan again it’s hardly surprising that he messes him up. If this was a traditional film he would be seen as a villain but here he is a normal supposedly intelligent side character.

I can see why this was held over for a few months. When it was thought at first to be Oscar bait then the studio watched the film and realized what a dud they had on their hands and held it for an anonymous release, that would be the best to just make a quick buck on the film.

The film just seems like it is desperate to pat itself on the back especially by including actual homeless people as characters and extras. That it feels false and like a waste of time.

I just hope Joe Wright picks better material for his next film to show off his talent rather than waste it on drivel like this that requires more of a workman-like director with not as much creativity.

GRADE: D+

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