The Soloist follows the story of Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a musically gifted schizophrenic homeless man, and Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), a Los Angeles Times writer who attempted to restore Ayers’ inner-talents and lead him back to a path of personal and musical success. The film transcends its own emotionally draining story-line, with a graceful and artistic effort by astute director Joe Wright – who also steered Pride & Prejudice and Atonement to critical success – along with outstanding performances from Jamie Foxx, who continues to develop into one of the finest actors working today, and the charismatic Robert Downey Jr., who proves that he can hop from big budget tent-poles like Iron Man, to smaller films like The Soloist, with grace and ease.
Downey and Foxx generate very affective emotion as characters both struggling to unearth some clarity that’s been inset within the years of murkiness of Ayers’ troubled mind.
As the story develops, newspaper columnist Steve Lopez is recovering after a biking accident, and one day becomes drawn to the beautiful sound of a violin played by a homeless man named Nathaniel Ayers, who lives on L.A.’s infamous Skid Row. Ayers exclaims that he’s a former Juilliard prodigy, which immediately intrigues the investigative reporter, and he soon learns that indeed Ayers was at one time a student cellist at the school – but was forced to drop out after two years when schizophrenia invaded his mind.
Lopez decides to write a column on Ayers’ story, which becomes hugely successful, even inspiring one reader to mail in a cello as a gift for Nathaniel. The two men, both troubled souls in their own way, develop a close bond as Lopez attempts to return Ayers to his musical promise and bring attention to the plight of L.A.s’ homeless citizens. However, Ayers’ schizophrenia proves to be a vicious opponent, pulling Ayers’ back into darkness, just as Lopez seems to come close to bringing his talents to the foreground.
Overall, The Soloist is a strong picture, which eagerly captures an often times hidden side of life and American culture. It’s only flaw may be the fact that it pulls no punches, as it takes audiences into an unforgiving world filled with loneliness, cruelty – but with just a bit of hope.
The Soloist Blu-ray contains several nice bonus features, highlighted by a thoughtful commentary track by director Joe Wright, where he speaks about the themes of film, shooting locations, sound design, the film’s music and more.
- An Unlikely Friendship: Making The Soloist, presented in HD, discusses the genesis of the project, starting with a look at the newspaper column that inspired the film, which includes interview clips with the real Steve Lopez, the producers’ meeting with Nathaniel Ayers, the staging of specific scenes, actor Jamie Foxx’s exposure to the cello, and the movie’s ending.
- Kindness, Courtesy and Respect: Mr. Ayers + Mr. Lopez, presented in HD, is a brief featurette with Nathaniel Ayers, Steve Lopez, and Ayers’ sister Jennifer recounting the story of friendship behind the film.
- One Size Does Not Fit All: Addressing Homelessness in Los Angeles, presented in HD, looks at the struggles of L.A.’s homeless and their influence on the storytelling in the movie.
- Juilliard: The Education of Nathaniel Ayers, presented in HD, recalls when Ayers met famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, along with other musicians that contributed to the film.
- Beth’s Story, presented in HD, is an animated short film revolving around homelessness, which is beautifully orchestrated, and adds more than filler to the supplements.
- Five deleted scenes, presented in SD, and The Soloist theatrical trailer, which is presented in HD, round out the extras on the disc.
The Soloist Blu-ray disc is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 TrueHD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Susannah Grant
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener, Tom Hollander, Lisa Gay Hamilton
Blu-ray Release Date: August 4, 2009