The Soloist is the “true” story of Steve Lopez, a columnist for The Los Angeles Times who discovers a schizophrenic and homeless Julliard-trained cellist living on the streets of L.A.
What caught his eye — and ear — is the man’s ability to get sweet sounds out of a two-stringed, battered old violin.
According to the movie, Lopez’s columns and efforts to assist Nathaniel Ayers led to the mayor pumping more money into the coffers to help the city’s homeless and mentally disturbed.
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The Soloist is one of those flicks that miss the intended target by miles. This is where those who see the movie and remember this review scratch their heads and wonder how I could bash a story so “touching,” so “humane,” so “heartwarming.”
One word: manipulation.
Director Joe Wright (Atonement) and screenwriter Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) give us an endless series of flat, emotionless, drawn-out scenes focusing on Lopez trying to figure out how to help the guy and then get him out of his life. Jamie Fox — who plays Ayers — mumbles, panics and behaves like every other movie schizophrenic.
The movie does have its plusses. Robert Downey Jr. is Lopez and is, as always, brilliant. Downey brings the only sign of life to a lifeless plot, but it isn’t much. As mentioned earlier, Foxx (Ray) is an excellent actor, but he's not exceptional in the role of the homeless and pathetic — but not sympathetic — Ayers.
There is no doubt Lopez’s experience on the streets and his impressions are worthy of a best-selling book. There are hints that the book and his columns dig deeper into the hopelessness of homelessness that Lopez found on the streets and the inability of our society to really help people with Ayers’ disability.
Combine that with the hinted at, but not pushed, dismantling of a great newspaper — and reasons why newspapers are important to our society and need to survive — and this is a great story that just doesn’t get told.
Mr. Movie rating: 2 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, April 24 at Regal’s Columbia Mall 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.