The Soloist

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The Soloist
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoe Wright
Produced byGary Foster
Russ Krasnoff
Written bySusannah Grant
Based onThe Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music
by Steve Lopez
StarringJamie Foxx
Robert Downey, Jr.
Catherine Keener
Tom Hollander
Lisa Gay Hamilton
Music byDario Marianelli
CinematographySeamus McGarvey
Edited byPaul Tothill
Distributed byParamount Pictures (North America)
Universal Pictures (international)
Release date
  • 24 April 2009 (2009-04-24) (U.S.)
  • 11 September 2009 (2009-09-11) (UK)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget$60 million[1]
Box office$38.3 million[2]

The Soloist is a 2009 British-American drama film directed by Joe Wright, and starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. It is based on the true story of Nathaniel Ayers, a musician who developed schizophrenia and became homeless. The screenplay by Susannah Grant is based on the book, The Soloist by Steve Lopez.

Foxx portrays Ayers, who is considered a cello prodigy, and Downey portrays Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist who discovers Ayers and writes about him in the newspaper. The film was released in theatres on 24 April 2009[3] and on DVD and Blu-ray August 5.


In 2005, Steve Lopez is a journalist working for the Los Angeles Times. He is divorced and now works for his ex-wife, Mary, an editor. A biking accident lands Lopez in a hospital.

One day, he hears a violin being played beautifully. Investigating, he encounters Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless man with schizophrenia, who is playing a violin when Lopez introduces himself. During the conversation that follows, Lopez learns that Ayers once attended Juilliard.

Curious as to how a former student of such a prestigious school ended up on the streets, Lopez contacts Juilliard but learns that no record of Ayers graduating from it exists. Though at first figuring a man with schizophrenia who's talented with a cello isn't worth his time, Lopez soon realizes that he has no better story to write about. Luckily, he soon learns that Ayers did attend Juilliard, but dropped out after two years.

Finding Ayers the next day, Lopez says he wants to write about him. Ayers doesn't appear to be paying attention. Getting nowhere, Lopez finds and contacts Ayers' sister, who gives the columnist the information he needs: Ayers was once a child prodigy with the cello, until he began displaying symptoms of schizophrenia at Juilliard. Unable to handle the voices, Ayers dropped out and ended up on the streets due to the delusion that his sister wanted to kill him. Without a cello, he has resorted to playing a two-string violin.

Lopez writes his article. One reader is so touched that she sends him a cello for Ayers. Lopez brings it to him and Ayers shows he is just as proficient as with a violin. Unfortunately, his tendency to wander puts both Ayers and the cello in danger, so Lopez talks him into leaving it at a shelter, located in a neighborhood of homeless people. Ayers is later seen playing for the homeless.

A concerned Lopez tries to get a doctor he knows to help. He also tries to talk Ayers into getting an apartment, but Ayers refuses. After seeing a reaction to music played at an opera house, Lopez persuades another friend, Graham, a cellist, to rehabilitate Ayers through music. The lessons go well, though Ayers is shown to be getting a little too attached to Lopez, much to the latter's annoyance. Lopez eventually talks Ayers into moving into an apartment by threatening to abandon him.

Through Lopez's article, Ayers gains so much fame that he is given the chance to perform a recital. Sadly, he loses his temper, attacks Graham, and leaves. This convinces Lopez's doctor friend to get Ayers help. But when Ayers learns what Lopez is up to, he throws Lopez out of his apartment and threatens to kill him.

While speaking with Mary, Lopez realizes that not only has he changed Ayers' life, but Ayers has changed him. Determined to make amends, Lopez brings Ayers' sister to L.A. for a visit. Ayers and Lopez make up. Later, while they all watch an orchestra, Lopez ponders how beneficial their friendship has been. Ayers still hears voices, but at least he no longer lives on the streets. In addition, Ayers has helped improve Lopez's relationship with his own family.

It is revealed at the end that Ayers is still a member of the LAMP Community – a Los Angeles nonprofit organization that seeks to help people living with severe mental illness – and that Lopez is learning how to play the guitar.



The Soloist, directed by Joe Wright, was written by Susannah Grant, based on a series of columns[4] written by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, who chronicled the plight of Nathaniel Ayers, Jr., a musician with schizophrenia, and eventually was chronicled in Lopez's book, The Soloist,[5] which was published in the spring of 2008.[6] The film was budgeted at $60 million, twice the budget amount of Wright's previous film, Atonement.[7] Production began in January 2008 and was filmed mostly in Los Angeles,[5] with some scenes shot in Cleveland.


Box office[edit]

On its opening weekend, the film opened #4 behind Fighting, 17 Again, and Obsessed, grossing $9,715,000 in 2,024 theaters with a $4,800 average per theater.[8] The film went on to only recover about half of its total budget bringing in $31,720,158. This was blamed on the film's initial release date being postponed, as well as the film's release coming one week before the 2009 summer movie season.

Critical reaction[edit]

The film received positive to mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating 56%, based on 200 reviews, with an average score of 5.9/10. The site's consensus reads, "Though it features strong performances by its lead players, a lack of narrative focus prevents The Soloist from hitting its mark."[9] At Metacritic the film received an average score of 61 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Reviewers generally praise the performances by Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, but comment on the film's lack of narrative focus in attempting to tell a convincing or engaging story due to the somewhat "uneven" direction by director Joe Wright.[11] Many felt that the project was a bit of a "mismatch" for Wright, and felt it was one of his weakest films to date, following the success of his adaptations of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement.


The soundtrack to The Soloist was released on April 21, 2009.

1."Pershing Square"Dario Marianelli0:48
2."Crazy About Beethoven"Dario Marianelli2:01
3."Paper Mache World"Dario Marianelli1:33
4."A City Symphony"Dario Marianelli3:41
5."This Is My Apartment"Dario Marianelli1:54
6."There Is No Escape"Dario Marianelli1:36
7."Falling Apart"Dario Marianelli1:10
8."Four Billion Years"Dario Marianelli2:54
9."Nathaniel Breaks Down"Dario Marianelli5:31
10."Accordion Interlude"Dario Marianelli2:07
11."The Lord's Prayer"Dario Marianelli3:12
12."The Voices Within"Dario Marianelli2:09
13."Sister"Dario Marianelli5:34
14."Cello Lesson"Dario Marianelli2:27
15."Mr. Ayers And Mr. Lopez"Dario Marianelli11:10
Total length:47:47[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Child, Ben (28 September 2009). "You review: The Soloist". Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  2. ^ "The Soloist". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  3. ^ Thompson, Anne (2008-10-19). "Wright's 'Soloist' won't play holiday". Variety.
  4. ^ "Steve Lopez on Nathaniel Anthony Ayers". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ a b Michael Fleming (2007-08-16). "Jamie Foxx tunes up for 'Soloist'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-02-07.
  6. ^ Michael Fleming (2007-08-27). "Downey Jr. joins Wright's 'Soloist'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-02-07.
  7. ^ "Atonement director shocked by big Hollywood budget". World Entertainment News Network. 2008-01-14.
  8. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for April 24–26, 2009". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
  9. ^ "The Soloist Movie Reviews, Pictures". IGN Entertainment. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-07-30.
  10. ^ "Soloist, The (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
  11. ^ "The Soloist".
  12. ^ The Soloist Soundtrack TheOST. Retrieved February 24, 2014


External links[edit]