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The Soloist Review

The Soloist

The Soloist is a great story, it’s too bad that its filmmakers didn’t know how to tell it correctly or in an entertaining manner.

My rating 3 Stars

Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) is a musical prodigy who develops schizophrenia during his second year at Juilliard. Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) is a successful journalist and columnist for the LA Times. After a serious bicycle accident that nearly cost his life, Lopez had to take some time off from work; his fans missed him. After his return, his boss wanted him to write a piece about his accident; however, Lopez didn’t feel right sharing that with his readers. He wanted to write about something else, he just wasn’t sure what.

Lopez goes out to get lunch when suddenly he is mesmerized by the sound of a two string violin playing. He follows the sound only to find that it was a schizophrenic homeless man playing the “instrument.” Lopez is both in awe and inspired, he decides right then and there that he is going to write about this intriguing man. Lopez starts a conversation with him, however, it was very difficult to talk to Nathaniel because he would go on and on about unrelated topics. You had to listen very carefully to get answers. I have never been a real fan of Foxx, but I must say with all honesty, he did a really nice job with this role. The first time we see Nathaniel on the screen he delivers close to 2 minute incoherent speech, it was like a crazy Shakespearian monologue. I can’t imagine trying to memorize a speech like that where it’s just rambling stream of disjointed consciousness.

During that first encounter the only information that Lopez got out of that 2 minute monologue was that Nathaniel went to Juilliard and that he had traveled there from Cleveland. Lopez decided to start there with the story and run with it.  He contacted Juilliard which led to finding his sister. He had a nice long chat with her. He told her how he had met her brother on the streets playing the violin that only had two strings and how he went to Juilliard and she told him how he had been a music prodigy from an early age and that he used to play the cello. He gathered a lot of good information about Nathaniel from that conversation. Alas he had what he needed to write his article on Nathaniel and so he did and they published it on the next issue. The piece was so moving that he got lots of correspondence from his readers congratulating him on such a great piece. One reader was so moved that she donated her cello to Lopez for him to give to Nathaniel to play. I should remind you; this movie was based on a true story. I’m always amazed how generous people can be.

Lopez was so taken with Nathaniel that he decided he was going to help him get back on his feet and playing music again. He got him an apartment so that he wouldn’t be homeless anymore. Using his popularity as a columnist, he arranged several performances, however because of Nathaniel’s tendencies to schizophrenia, something would always happened and things would not work out which was very frustrating and disappointing for Lopez.

The Soloist is a really wonderful story. It is too bad that the movie wasn’t. That’s right; this movie was not that good. The acting was superb, the story was moving and full of life and the quality was there, but there was something with the story telling that it never seemed to get anywhere. Throughout the movie you are shown flashbacks of Nathaniel’s childhood, but they do nothing with them. Nathaniel hears voices in his head, but they are not addressed. Lopez gets a personal music teacher for Nathaniel, but they go nowhere with it. It’s like the writer of the movie started all of these different points and never finished them. There were so many questions left unanswered. That was very disappointing to me.

Another ironic tidbit in this story about music is the music wasn’t very well chosen. The pieces they selected for this film didn’t seem to fit with the scenes. As much as I love this story and as much as I, for the first time, enjoyed a Jamie Foxx performance, I cannot recommend this film to many people. It isn’t an awful film, but for the type of story that the film was trying to tell this should have been a great film and possibly an Academy Award nominee. It’s too bad they had to botch the film the way they did.

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