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The Soloist (2009)

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

Director:

Joe Wright

Writers:

Susannah Grant (screenplay), Steve Lopez (book)

Through the Lens of 'Darkest Hour' Director Joe Wright

See how director Joe Wright uses his signature tracking shots to set up a visual narrative for his films, including Atonement, The Soloist, and Hanna.

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1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jamie Foxx ... Nathaniel Ayers
Robert Downey Jr. ... Steve Lopez
Catherine Keener ... Mary Weston
Tom Hollander ... Graham Claydon
LisaGay Hamilton ... Jennifer Ayers (as Lisagay Hamilton)
Nelsan Ellis ... David Carter
Rachael Harris ... Leslie Bloom
Stephen Root ... Curt Reynolds
Lorraine Toussaint ... Flo Ayers
Justin Martin ... Young Nathaniel
Kokayi Ampah ... Bernie Carpenter
Patrick Tatten ... Paul Jr.
Susane Lee ... Marisa (as Susane E. Lee)
Marcos De Silvas ... Mayor Villaraigosa
Ilia Volok ... Harry Barnoff
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

No one changes anything by playing it safe See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | France | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 April 2009 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Imagining Beethoven See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$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

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | SDDS | DTS

Color:

Color (DeLuxe)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

As of April 2009, Nathaniel Ayers "has a girlfriend, and is doing reasonably well", according to Steve Lopez. He has also taught himself to play the flute. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[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 »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

Forever In Blue Jeans
Written by Neil Diamond & Richard Bennett
Performed by Neil Diamond
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By Arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
"The Soloist" Will Carry You Home
26 April 2009 | by jon.h.ochiaiSee 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.


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