Solid performances? Check. Compelling story? Check. The stellar performances by Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx are a testament to the levels of high-quality acting that is missing in so many films today. The interplay and chemistry between the two actors is exciting and a joy to watch.
Based on a true story, the film follows Los Angeles Time reporter Steve Lopez (Downey Jr.) as he works on a story involving a brilliant musician, Nathanial Ayers (Foxx), who happens to be homeless. Lopez is determined to uncover how Ayers ended up on the street, and his journey is one of both self-discovery and sacrifice.
At times, the pacing of the film becomes slow and a bit cumbersome. This is clearly a performance piece in the same way that the film Doubt was. While there are plenty of emotionally riveting and powerful moments, the film really earns its stripes when Downey Jr. and Foxx interact.
The film also looks at the plight of the homeless in Los Angeles. Sequences of the film were shot in the downtrodden skid row areas of the city, and the stories these homeless men and women share are heartbreaking. With the homeless issue as a major component of the film, the story becomes an advocate for those who are on the streets.
It attempts to shine a light on the less fortunate and to expose the system that has failed these men, women, and children who call the streets, alleys, and shelters their “home.”
The DVD is loaded with a variety of special features that touch on both the filmmaking process and also on issues concerning the homeless. These include:
Commentary by Director Joe Wright
An Unlikely Friendship: Making The Soloist
A behind-the-scenes look at the steps taken to turn the true story and events into a movie.
Kindness, Courtesy and Respect: Mr. Ayers + Mr. Lopez
A featurette featuring the two men who inspired the film. Both me talk about their real-life encounters with one another.
One Size Does Not Fit All: Addressing Homelessness in Los Angeles
The plight of the homeless in L.A. and what steps can be made to possibly rectify the problem.
A short animated piece with the message that everyone has a story to tell.
The Soloist isn’t a film that everyone will enjoy. It’s pacing is off-balance; while it’s performances are Oscar-worthy. If you are a student of acting and want to see some excellent actors at work, I recommend you check out The Soloist.