The Soloist is the story of Steve Lopez (Robert Downy Jr.) and Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx). Two men that meet by fate and end up needing each other in different ways. For Steve in the beginning it seems he just needs Nathaniel for a story. This need for a story is driven by a rash of staff writer firings at the LA Times. It just so happens that he finds this story in Nathaniel, a homeless musician with mental problems. For Nathaniel the need is different he just needs a friend, plain and simple.
As Steve writes about his new found homeless friend he begins to struggle with the right and wrong of it all and thinks he needs to find a way to help this once Julliard student get back to some kind of normalcy. This is where the film excels in the focus of helping, we see deeper into Nathaniel’s issues with mental health and his day to day lifestyle of being homeless.
The Director (Joe Wright) shows us this in a variety of different ways from visualization to the sound of a million tiny voices in Nathaniel’s head. We get to really see what the characters are thinking and feeling. For example in a scene where both of our troubled characters are sitting watching an orchestra play a piece of music we are bombarded with a stream of colors and see see how Nathaniel visualizes the music. We also hear this in parts of the film as a flurry of voices we hear as the audience gets transferred into the head of Nathaniel.
Jamie Foxx portrays this so well as we hear the voices, his facial expression changes with every whisper. You can tell that Jamie really let go and dug deep into his character. It really shows too being that his performance was outstanding in this film. It’s too bad that this was released so early in the year as I’m sure it will be forgotten come Oscar time.
As for Robert Downy Jr., it seemed to me that he was out-shined by how well Jamie was and just played himself in a way. Not to say that he was not good in this role, he was good but just not as memorable as Jamie was. Don’t get me wrong his character had a lot of demons to battle as well. Having to deal with wanting to help but not wanting to take full responsibility for the life of a homeless man. It seems he has a problem with intimacy. We see this in many ways in the film but mostly with his relationship with his wife/editor played by Catherine Keener. Who it seems he just can’t decide if he wants to be in a relationship with.
One standout role is that of David, a counselor at a homeless shelter where Nathaniel stays. David is played by Nelsan Ellis. Many of you might know him from the TV show True Blood when he played the character Lafayette. In The Soloist he plays a hard-nosed counselor that has been around the block and give Roberts’ character advice that he usually doesn’t follow.
Over all this movie surprised me though it does seem to run on in parts and the flashbacks to Nathaniel’s past seem sparse. It makes up for all that with how it portrays his disease. Through the visualization of flying over LA to the sound design is how the movie really shines, along with Jamie’s acting. I can strongly say I liked this movie. I must warn you though if you are looking for a short heart felt romp this weekend, this movie is not for you. But if you have the patience to sit through a longer movie that dives into some taboo subjects then go see The Soloist.
I give The Soloist 3 “homeless David Bowies” out of 5
by Ryan Davis