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The Soloist - DVD Review



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</script></div>{/googleAds}The Soloist has a lot to say about a lot of things. Too much, in fact. When L.A. Times writer Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) learns that the homeless man he discovered playing a two-stringed violin in a downtown L.A. park, once attended Julliard School of Music, he sniffs a story. And we sense another of those brilliant rags-to-riches-to-rags-again movies that have so effectively inspired viewers while also bringing to light the challenges and horrors of mental illness. But unfortunately, the script by Susannah Grant is too broadly focused and fires in too many disparate directions to find a cohesive statement. In other words, the film doesn't know what it wants to say, and makes a confusing mess of what little pieces it does get right.

Not helping matters much is the subject of the story, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, played by Jamie Foxx. While Foxx does a great job painting the portrait of the homeless man's troubled soul while not dipping into the sympathy pool with a hammy performance, his Ayers just isn't dynamic enough to carry the story. Perhaps not totally the fault of Foxx, but his character never arcs and we fail to realize any progress or hope for recovery. But thanks to director Joe Wright's creative (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement) hand, we do get a great sense of Ayers' chaos and pain. Wright's depiction of schizophrenia through the constant flood of imagined voices, all competing for attention, and his visionary camera work give the audience a somewhat disturbing sense of discomfort. But again, there just aren't enough highs to balance the depth of the lows. No forward motion, no success and certainly no hope for redemption.

The SolistAyers's past is revealed through a series of flashbacks where we learn that he played the cello as a young child. While most children played outside or got in trouble on the streets, young Ayers was holed up in the basement of his Cleveland house practicing his music... a child prodigy in the making. Once at Julliard however, Ayers's illness begins to kick in full force. So much so that he's unable to continue his studies and eventually ends up on the streets in L.A. pushing a broken down shopping cart full of tattered belongings.

Lopez is an equally lost soul. His marriage to the paper's editor (played by Katherine Keener) recently failed and he's now facing layoffs at the struggling Times. Unpacked boxes remain strewn about his home and his personal life is a mess, so he pours himself into his work, but he's merely floating from story to story, doing his job, nothing more. When a sympathetic reader sends her cello for Lopez to pass on to Ayers, the spark for Lopez to help the homeless man get his life back together is lit. But it's not quite that simple as Ayers is not only battling his debilitating mental disease, but he also lives on the grimy streets of L.A., a place hellishly depicted by Wright's camera as a kaleidoscope of crime, grit, hopelessness and despair.

The Soloist is a story about how trying to understand someone else's world can take you a long way towards understanding your own. That's a meaty subject to bite into... and for bits and pieces the movie succeeds. But it often misses the mark because it's never able to focus on that singular theme. Instead, it's a mixed bag of half-baked thoughts on many things, from mental illness, to friendship, to the state of today's daily newspapers. And if those aren't weighty enough topics, The Soloist also wants to document the plight of the homeless in Los Angeles.

But to its credit, the movie offers no false impressions that there's an easy fix for the problem of mentally ill people living in the streets. And that's the most moving of all the film's messages.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
2 stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
3 Stars

DVDDVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English; French; Spanish; Closed Captioned
Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1English: Dolby Digital 2.0 StereoFrench: Dolby Digital 2.0 StereoSpanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes featurette; deleted scenes..

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Feature-length audio commentary with director Joe Wright

Featurettes

  • An Unlikely Friendship: Making 'Soloist' (19:37)
  • Kindness, Courtesy, and Respect: Mr. Ayers + Mr. Lopez (4:48)
  • One Size Does Not Fit All: Addressing Homelessness in Los Angeles (9:45)
  • Beth's Story (2:02)

Deleted Scenes (9:49)

Trailers: None.

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging

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