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Fred Listens to The Soloist

Published April 23, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of DreamWorks Pictures
The Soloist PosterThe Soloist
I can’t help wondering what Lincoln Osiris would think of The Soloist. In light of his analysis of Simple Jack, what exactly would he say about Jamie Foxx playing a mentally troubled man with a talent that lets him triumph over adversity? Did Foxx go all the way?

Review: The Soloist


Robert Downey Jr. plays Steve Lopez, a reporter who discovered a Julliard trained cellist living homeless on the streets of L.A. Foxx plays Nathaniel Ayer, the cellist, gets back into music but never overcomes his diagnosed schizophrenia.

It’s a good, convincing, sympathetic performance, but it’s still a movie. I mean, what, do you want a medal for a millionaire actor showing the plight of this poor guy? He’s good. I really believed him. I felt for the guy. Nathaniel Ayer still can’t hold down a job or normal relationships.

The film has that compelling Robert Downey Jr. style of talking that has to be his own additions. He gives more than just scene points. The movie feels alive and dynamic because of that, like scenes are really happening, not just forwarding the formula story. Then that are some pee pratfalls which I don’t think belonged there.

It profiles the real problem of homelessness, people with medical needs or untreatable conditions. It also portrays the frustration of trying and wanting to help. I just think it’s a little too smug when a character calls Lopez on exploiting Ayer, so that he can learn a lesson, because really the movie is benefiting from all the same things.


It shows another contrived newsroom with desk writers eating and talking and commenting on celebrity reporting versus public interest in actual news. Fortunately, they don’t spend long there and the film conveys a lot more passion for finding a story than State of Play.

The film makes a visual effort with some shots, like a dim fire lit celloing session. More impressive is the sound. In this movie, traffic and club music actually does drown out dialogue like in real life.

A few flashbacks weave seamlessly through the narrative, showing important backstory without calling attention to them being flashbacks. I love how big hair is all it takes to make Foxx look like he’s a college kid.

I liked The Soloist more than most disease/triumph over adversity movies. It’s more believable, more sincere and just more interesting than most. I just can’t get over the feeling of filmmakers patting themselves on the back for doing something important or altruistic when that’s at best a side effect of the production.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of DreamWorks Pictures
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