152 user 212 critic

The Soloist (2009)

PG-13 | | Biography, Drama, Music | 24 April 2009 (USA)
2:32 | Trailer

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A newspaper journalist discovers a homeless musical genius and tries to improve his situation.



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





Cast overview, first billed only:
Jennifer Ayers (as Lisagay Hamilton)
Curt Reynolds
Flo Ayers
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:




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Release Date:

24 April 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Imagining Beethoven  »


Box Office


$60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,716,458, 26 April 2009, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$31,670,931, 5 July 2009
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the scene where Nathaniel Ayers is carrying his stuff to his new apartment, he can be seen wearing, over his costume, a large yellow necklace which says "America", and shows a logo. America is the name of one of the most popular soccer teams in Mexico. See more »


A utility truck is seen in the tunnel when Lopez and Nathaniel are talking. The utility truck was not there before Lopez stopped his car. 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.
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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 »


Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #26.189 (2010) See more »


Symphony No. 3 (Eroica), Op. 55, Mvmt. I
Written by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performed by The Los Angeles Philharmonic
Conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A True Story About Urban Homelessness
24 April 2009 | by See all my reviews

What makes this film watchable is that it is based on a true story. A caring Los Angeles reporter named Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) tries to help a homeless man named Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Jamie Foxx).

Ayers suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. But he once attended Julliard, and he still lives and breathes the music of Beethoven. Ayers, with his shopping cart of possessions, walks the streets, playing his violin amid the noise of the freeway. He's content, in his own world.

That unusual behavior grabs the attention of Lopez, no doubt as a human interest story for his own column. But as Lopez gradually becomes more genuinely concerned about Ayers, their relationship encounters frustration, anger, and emotional pain.

It's a poignant, gritty story, full of realism. The film manages to be compassionate without being patronizing. The film does a terrific job in portraying the harsh, depressing reality of the boarders who live at a large shelter where Ayers goes, at the insistence of Lopez.

Technical elements of the film are good. The visuals are thematically impressive. Production design and costumes are detailed and realistic. Acting is credible. Robert Downey, Jr. gives a fine performance.

The main problem is the plot. Too much time is spent on Lopez and his trivialities. Somehow, the compelling Ayers story morphs into a weighty examination of Lopez and his distress in dealing with Ayers. The script is to blame here. I think if the main character had been Ayers, instead of Lopez, the film could have been quite inspiring.

Even so, the film clearly calls attention to the plight of the urban homeless. As such, the film deserves viewer support.

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