At last there’s a good—no, great—reason to go to the movies. Jamie Foxx finally found the film he needed to follow up his Academy Award-winning performance in Ray, with The Soloist.
It’s the true story of Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, played wonderfully by Robert Downy Jr., who is compelled to help homeless musician Nathanial Ayers (Jamie Foxx). Steve decides to write about Nathanial in his column after hearing Juilliard dropout play violin in a park.
As Steve aims to figure out how such an intelligent and talented musician ends up homeless, flashback sequences reveal that Nathanial started to develop schizophrenia while studying at Juilliard. This is where the film rises above every box-office bummer that’s been released so far this year. The Soloist offers the best representation of schizophrenia that Hollywood has offered since A Beautiful Mind. It’s an honest portrayal of the onset and debilitating effects of the disease.
In the film, Nathanial’s story touches the heart of a reader who sent Steve a cello to give to Nathanial. Steve decides to use the instrument to pull Nathanial off the streets. The cello is Nathanial’s drug that takes him away from the present.
At several points in the movie, the dialogue stops and classical music fills the theater. Director Joe Wright allows the music take over the same way it does the Beethovan-loving Nathanial when he plays the cello.
The movie was filmed at the actual homeless agency that assists the real Nathanial, and some of the agency’s clients were casted in the film. It’s a touch that contributes to the film’s honest presentation of homelessness and mental illness.
Once again, Jamie Foxx has committed to his character and manages to be down, but not out. In his recent Jay Leno appearance, Jamie said he wondered during the filming of the movie if he could catch schizophrenia. (A doctor assured him that he couldn’t.) As Nathanial, Jamie evokes laughter, fear, sympathy and tears from viewers. “I’ve never really seen an actor commit in such a total way as Jamie did,” the director Joe told the New York Times.
Although, Steve Lopez always saw the humanity in Nathanial Ayers, he struggled with figuring out how to be his friend, not his savior. It’s interesting to watch their friendship develop.
The movie opens nationwide this Friday, April 24. It will leave those who look at the homeless a faceless group of people second-guessing who they pass on the street. Everyone has a story and The Soloist makes you wonder, “Why her?” and “Could that be me?”
– Sabrina M. Parker
photos by Dreamworks Studios