Blu-ray Review The Soloist
Directed by: Joe Wright Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG-13
Plot: Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) is a column writer for the Los Angeles Times. He makes a living off the “interesting stories” that live in each person existing in the city. By chance he meets Nathaniel Ayers Jr., (Jamie Foxx), a homeless man playing a two-string violin in front of a mysteriously placed giant statue of Ludwig Van Beethoven. Once Lopez hears the word “Julliard” muttered in between the musician’s ramblings, Lopez calls up Julliard and ultimately finds out that yes, this homeless guy did in fact go to one of the most prestigious music schools in the world. Now he has a story.
Who's It For? This film is not limited to musicians or volunteers, as it tries to reach out to any person with a heart. Whether it plays in tune with that organ is another story.
Based on the writings of Steve Lopez, The Soloist is not about a man with a genius talent that is squandered by his mental disabilities. It is about the power of esteemed writers, and how they can use their ego and position to influence a story to how they see fit. At least according to the film, Lopez is a full on a**hole who simply sees Ayers as a great story. (He’s the kind of human being that parks his SAAB in the middle of skid row, or starts caring about another person only when hearing that they went to Julliard). Much of the “charity” that proceeds is rife with selfish intentions, with Lopez trying to keep his star subject in good condition so that he can keep writing stories. The Soloist is a tale of exploitation, and a weak example of how those with severe gifts should not forget those with severe burdens. Of course by the end Lopez has been inspired by Ayers to stop being such a d*ck, but there are no heart strings to be heard when watching a successful man take advantage of someone who calls him a “friend.”
Well, at least Lopez got a book deal out of it.
An Unlikely Friendship: Making The Soloist - The producers talk about their response to Lopez's first article ("That's a movie!", not "We should help!"). Other areas covered include the praising of Foxx's performance, discussing the dedicated (and at times brilliant) cinematography, while also examining the hard work and authenticity that came from using actual homeless people for the film.
Deleted Scenes - A handful of segments left on the cutting room floor include a few more moments from Ayers' childhood and also a less sophisticated alternate ending.
Juilliard: The Education of Nathaniel Ayers - As if this prestigious music school needed more of a name for itself, producer Gary Foster spends five minutes blabbing about how incredible the school is, and the unmistakable talent that flows in and out of it.
Beth's Story - A two minute animated short that tells a realistic tale of one woman's misfortune leading to homelessness. A nice finale to this specific Blu-Ray.
The other extras:
Kindness, Courtesy and Respect: Mr. Ayers + Mr. Lopez One Size Does Not Fit All: Addressing Homelessness in Los Angeles Commentary by director Joe Wright Theatrical Trailer
Extras Score: 6/10
The special features overall add a few touches of sincerity to the film, despite the egos that tend to be displayed by the producers. The "Kindness, Courtesy and Respect" extra shows a brief look at the real Lopez and Ayers, and thankfully the actual writer does not have the same arrogance or dominance over Ayers that Downey Jr.'s performance would lead us to think.
For a serious and C-grade night at the home theater, The Soloist is a rental at best. But here's an idea for prospective buyers, inspired specifically by this film: How about not buying this Blu-Ray and protesting it's exploitive, Hollywood cushioned story by donating the 25 bucks it would cost to own The Soloist towards a charitable cause?
Final Score: 5/10