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The Soloist (2009)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama, Music  |  24 April 2009 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 42,670 users   Metascore: 61/100
Reviews: 142 user | 209 critic | 33 from Metacritic.com

A Los Angeles journalist befriends a homeless Juilliard-trained musician, while looking for a new article for the paper.



(screenplay), (book)
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1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Graham Claydon
Jennifer Ayers (as Lisagay Hamilton)
David Carter
Leslie Bloom
Curt Reynolds
Flo Ayers
Young Nathaniel
Kokayi Ampah ...
Bernie Carpenter
Paul Jr.
Marisa (as Susane E. Lee)
Mayor Villaraigosa
Harry Barnoff


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. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


No one changes anything by playing it safe See more »


Biography | Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




| |


Release Date:

24 April 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Imagining Beethoven  »

Box Office


$60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$9,716,458 (USA) (24 April 2009)


£1,060,061 (UK) (9 October 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The writing of the book and the selling of the film rights have helped pay Ayres' expenses and helped his sister, a mental health professional, set up a foundation for him. See more »


Juilliard dance is not a ballet school. Reference was made to ballerinas and you see them in tutus and make up when he is living in NYC and attending Juilliard. Although they do have ballet classes, it is a contemporary dance focus. They do not do ballets. See more »


[first lines]
Construction Worker: [greeting his co-workers] Buen dia, muchachos.
Steve Lopez: [narrating] "Points West" by Steve Lopez. A construction worker in Griffith Park heard the
Steve Lopez: [swerving his bicycle to avoid a raccoon] Hey!
Steve Lopez: [continuing narration] He saw a cyclist cartwheel off his bike and slam face-first into the unforgiving asphalt of Riverside Drive.
See more »

Crazy Credits

At the end of the credits, the music concludes with the sound of a cassette tape grinding to a stop, referencing Lopez's omnipresent recorder. See more »


Who Am I?
Written by Tariq Trotter (as Tarik Collins), John 'Moses' Davis (as Mose Davis), James 'Kamal' Gray (as Jimmy Gray), Jeremy Harding, Kenyatta Saunders, Malik Abdul-Basit (as Malik Smart), and Ahmir-Khalib Thompson (as Ahmir Thompson)
Performed by Beenie Man
Courtesy of VP Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

"The Soloist" Will Carry You Home
26 April 2009 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

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.

19 of 24 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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How could you allow these mentally ill people on the streets? thanasaki_mtl
movie with best depiction of schizophrenia? eamo-1
One of the worst performances of 2009. brettjm3
What were the colorful lights Nathaniel sees at the rehearsal? cls-6
His playing heners
Anyone know how a poor boy from Ohio funded muisc tuition? bloovee
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