Movie Review Rewind: The Soloist (2009)

 In Movie Review Rewind, Movie Reviews, Movies

The Soloist is a biographical film about musical prodigy Nathaniel Anthony Ayers. This film was pushed back from November to April, so it was taken out of the Oscar race. It doesn’t have that Oscar feel to it, but the acting does. Robert Downey, Jr. plays L.A. writer Steve Lopez who meets Nathaniel Ayers (played by Jamie Foxx) and begins to write about him. But as Lopez digs deeper in to Ayers’ life, a friendship starts. And with every friendship, there are obstacles and struggles.

Lopez meets Ayers while he is playing the violin with only two strings. Ayers is homeless and lives on the streets of L.A. Lopez finds out he went to school at Julliard, but dropped out after two years. The reason is due to Ayers having schizophrenia. Lopez begins to help him as he writes about him. He wants to help Ayers get help, but does Ayers want any help?

The chance of these two guys meeting in L.A. and living the lives they do is an amazing story. And the fact that these two guys really exist make it even more fascinating. Downey, Jr. really delivers in this film. His character struggles almost as much as Ayers. He feels sorry for Ayers and wants to help, but then thinks maybe he is hurting more than helping.

Foxx is a musician and we know he can play one on the big screen. He won an Oscar for doing it once before. But to play a gifted a musician with schizophrenia is tough to do and Foxx has to do justice for the real Nathaniel Ayers. These two actors show they are capable of playing any character with emotion and grace.

Joe Wright directed this film. I really enjoyed his last project, Atonement. Wright did a good job, but came off less successful with this one. The acting is great, but the story itself is slow and even boring at times. The performances really lifted this film higher than the story. It is missing the emotional punch. A story such as this should have had a much more emotional impact, but it did not.

Something is missing from The Soloist. I don’t think it reached its full potential. Now, whether that blame is on the script or the direction, I do not know. But I do know Downey, Jr. and Foxx did the best they could with what they had, and it made a huge difference.

Brandon Vick is a member of The Music City Film Critics’ Association, the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and the star of The Vick’s Flicks Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.

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  • Suzanne Burrall

    This movie touched an emotional chord with me from start to finish. I happen to have a particular affinity for Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. Perhaps a percentage of audience members are simply anathema to relating to a seemingly lost soul, however talented and brilliant; maybe afraid or unwilling to relate to his mental illness and situation homelessness.

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