Friday, April 24, 2009

Now Playing: The Soloist

On Friday, "The Soloist" went into general release. The movie, starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr, is based on a book of the same name by LA Times columnist Steve Lopez. The book and movie chronicle the unlikely friendship forged on Skid Row between Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers, a gifted cellist who lost his mind to schizophrenia while attending Julliard.

I will be seeing "The Soloist" with a friend on Sunday, and plan to have a review here for Monday. In the meantime, here is a random sampling of newspaper reviews:

NY Times: The film is imperfect, periodically if unsurprisingly sentimental, overly tidy and often very moving. It works hard to make you feel good, as is to be expected, even as it maintains a strong sense of moral indignation that comes close to an assertion of real politics.

SF Chronicle: "The Soloist" finds success in one area, however, in director Joe Wright's subjective depiction of schizophrenia as experienced from inside an afflicted person's mind. In several memorable sequences, Wright creates a soundscape of imagined voices, all competing for attention, and through subtle, imaginative camera work, he conveys the dislocation of a person receiving reality through a distorted and frightening filter.

Chicago Tribune: We get only a drive-by sense of who Nathaniel Ayers, the former Juilliard music student plagued by undiagnosed schizophrenia, really is underneath the agonized surface. The film's poster lets you know who the movie's about: It's about the star Los Angeles Times writer Steve Lopez, played by Robert Downey Jr., whose influential columns on Ayers and his downtown L.A. skid row existence led to huge readership, political reform, a book deal and a movie sale.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "The Soloist" is pitch-perfect, a sensitive rendering of challenging social and emotional themes. What could have been a maudlin exercise in sentimentality — the unlikely relationship between a homeless street musician and a Los Angeles Times metro columnist — becomes a soul-stirring tribute to the power of music and the importance of friendship.


When it comes to raising public awareness, Hollywood has no equal. For a short time at least, the general population will be receptive to our message and we're fools not to take advantage of it. So I urge you, please see the movie. Then tie in whatever pet beef you may have about living with your illness to the movie and start advocating. And then advocate some more ...

"The Soloist" trailer

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