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Movie: The Soloist

By Pauline Adamek

In “The Soloist,” Robert Downey, Jr., plays real-life “Los Angeles Times” columnist Steve Lopez in a story that, somewhat confusingly, is part true, part fictional.

Director Joe Wright (“Atonement”) takes a fairly glib approach with this screenplay by Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich”) and delivers a film that deliberately steers clear of maudlin melodrama yet leaves you craving a deeper connection with these troubled characters.

Robert Downey, Jr., and Jamie Foxx in "The Soloist."

Robert Downey, Jr., and Jamie Foxx in “The Soloist.”

From the start, journalist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a broken man. Sporting some serious damage to his face following an accident, and in the throes of a (fictional) divorce from his editor ex-wife, acerbically portrayed by Catherine Keener, Lopez is enchanted to hear music echoing in a downtown public courtyard. There, beneath a statue of Beethoven, he meets an even more broken fellow, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), who is playing a sublime violin melody with only two strings. Lopez learns that the now homeless man was once a student at the famed Julliard School of Music and devotes several columns to telling his story.

Pretty soon a groundswell of support, in the form of donated musical instruments, gifts, and letters, floods in for Ayers, and Lopez finds himself swept into giving a lot more to this lost person than he anticipated.

Although a moving tale, “The Soloist” never really strums your heartstrings. It’s unclear whether the fault lies with Susannah Grant’s breezy screenplay or with Joe Wright’s flippant storytelling technique, that plays fast and loose with facts and details.

Jamie Foxx in "The Soloist."

Jamie Foxx in “The Soloist.

For instance, we never gain a clear sense of Lopez’s working relationship with his ex-wife, beyond the fact that they are squabbling about his lack of contact with their son. We also are given no actual context for the work that Lopez does for the newspaper. Hence, when he laments his column lacks a subject (because he can’t always find the transient Ayers) or when he declares he has a deadline to meet, there is a notable absence of tension as we have no idea how often he is expected to file his column.

Clumsy storytelling such as this saps the movie of the necessary tension that would drive the drama. Under different direction, “The Soloist” could command a greater level of audience involvement. At best, this movie is a decent character study starring two Oscar-winning actors.

Rated: PG-13
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener
Director: Joe Wright

Studio/Official Site:

[Pauline Adamek is a Hollywood-based film, theater, and food critic who files for “FilmInk Australia,” “LA Daily News,” “Sun Community Newspapers” as well as various websites under the “nom du net” Max Million.]

About Jenny Peters (163 Articles)
Jet Set Jen is the brainchild of Jenny Peters, a longtime freelance journalist whose career has spanned everything considered "Lifestyle" reporting, from movies and celebrities to fashion and fast cars, with plenty of food, wine and travel thrown in too. She currently contributes regularly to USA Today's,, New York Magazine, Coast Magazine, Bask Magazine and numerous other newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. She is a founding and voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (, which annually honors the year's top films with the Critics' Choice Awards. Jenny and her crack cadre of reporters at Jet Set Jen offer up opinions, suggestions and insider scoops on the best that the world has to offer, to keep you on the cutting edge of that ever elusive pursuit of life, liberty, happiness – and fun, fun, fun.

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