6.7/10
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155 user 214 critic

The Soloist (2009)

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

Life has a mind of its own 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

Several members of the L.A.M.P. Community, a housing and care center for the mentally ill, appeared in the film, and attended the Los Angeles premiere, and after-party. Nathaniel Ayers is a resident, and beneficiary, of L.A.M.P. See more »

Goofs

When Lopez pulls over in the tunnel after spotting Ayers, his car blocks the right lane. In subsequent shots, cars are seen in the background cruising through that very same lane, one even merges into it, even though Lopez's car is blocking it just a few yards ahead. 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

References American Idol (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

Can The Circle Be Unbroken
Written by Ada R. Habershon and Charles Gabriel, often attributed to A.P. Carter
Performed by The Carter Family (as The Original Carter Family)
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By Arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Uplifting: Finding a Golden Needle in the Haystack of Urban Blight
23 April 2009 | by LAKERS34See all my reviews

First off, I should say that I am personally familiar with this story, having worked in downtown L.A. for the last 19 years and seeing Mr Ayers and his cello many a time around 3rd and Hill Sts. I've also read Lopez's columns in the Times for years and followed this one with interest and satisfaction. Making a film about a tale like this restores my belief in Hollywood beyond the mindless bunk it churns out year after year.

Downey Jr and Foxx play a newspaper columnist and homeless man who come together in a most unusual way. Downey is a newspaper columnist looking for something original and interesting to write about. He finds it when he sees Foxx beautifully playing battered stringed instruments along 3rd street in downtown L.A. Foxx has been there for years but on this day grabs the eye of the columnist because the columnist himself is experiencing hardship and doubt related to his own position. He begins to write about this talented but troubled man who fills the stinky air around him with harmony. They become friends but keep in mind this is not fiction. The friendship hits many bumps that continue to this day. Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx's character) may be a brilliant, educated musician, but he suffers from bouts of schizophrenia that manifest at any time. Downey's character accepts this as it adds more intrigue to his columns. Then he accepts it on a personal level. Their friendship ultimately becomes real and meaningful. You sense that Downey's character needs the friendship even more than Foxx's homeless man does. In the end, Downey's Lopez can see the positive effect his work has brought to the plight of the homeless, yet he wonders personally how much better he has made Nathaniel...? His reflections make us think also.

Downey Jr and Foxx play their characters to near perfection and the film masterfully takes its time in developing the relationship between the two. Great to see director Joe Wright telling a contemporary tale just as effectively as he has in previous works. The film makes us wonder how many other Nathaniel Ayers are lurking out there on the streets? Life being what it is, of course we will never know. The beauty of the film is that is shows what can happen when just one Nathaniel Ayers is found after being lost for so many years. There's no sugarcoating; Ayers doesn't magically get better and rejoin mainstream society. Instead, the mainstream accepts him for what he is and what he offers and begins integrating him as best it can. This film will certainly pop up at award time next year.


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