The Soloist On paper, The Soloist sounds like a classic softhearted middlebrow awards-bait movie. Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) is a homeless schizophrenic on the streets of Los… The Soloist On paper, The Soloist sounds like a classic softhearted middlebrow awards-bait movie. Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) is a homeless schizophrenic on the streets of Los… 2009-04-24 PG-13 PT109M Drama Robert Downey Jr. Jamie Foxx Catherine Keener Stephen Root DreamWorks
Movie Review

The Soloist (2009)

MPAA Rating: PG-13
VIOLINS IN THE STREETS: Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx
Image credit: Francois Duhamel
VIOLINS IN THE STREETS: Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx
EW's GRADE
B

Details Release Date: Apr 24, 2009; Rated: PG-13; Length: 109 Minutes; Genre: Drama; With: Robert Downey Jr.; Distributor: DreamWorks

On paper, The Soloist sounds like a classic softhearted middlebrow awards-bait movie. Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) is a homeless schizophrenic on the streets of Los Angeles whose outward dementia — mismatched clothing topped by full sequined jacket; hair plastered down on either side; a mode of ''talk'' that's really a jumble of word salad — conceals a delicate, refined soul obsessed with the beauty of music. Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times who meets Nathaniel on the street and learns, after a bit of investigating, that he was once a budding cello virtuoso at 
Juilliard. He writes a column about him, and as Nathaniel starts to gain a bit of notoriety, the two men redeem each other. Or not.

The Soloist is based on a true story, but it takes pains not to sweeten the facts. And so the film, directed by Joe Wright (Atonement), draws us in without offering the expected ''inspirational'' catharsis. It's all a bit shapeless, yet made with sincerity and taste, and the two actors seize your sympathy. Downey plays Lopez with a missionary zeal but never sanctifies him, and Foxx gives a lyrical performance as a man so trapped in a whirlpool of feeling (there's a hint that the inner voices he conjures up are racial demons) that he can't connect with anything but Beethoven. His madness has removed all impediments to bliss, and Foxx is such a good actor you can just about hear the music in his head. B

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Originally posted Apr 14, 2009 Published in issue #1044-1045 Apr 24, 2009 Order article reprints