The descent into madness would be a frightening thing. One day you're one of the world's most gifted classical musicians attending Julliard, and the next you're a homeless man in L.A. who talks to himself, hears voices in his head, and plays his beaten up violin with two strings.
Based on a true story, 'The Soloist' stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Downey plays Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez. In true Downey fashion Steve Lopez comes across as arrogant and pompous, but with an underlying niceness to him. Foxx plays gifted musician Nathaniel Ayers who was once a student of the most prestigious musical school in the country, but is now homeless in L.A., pushing around a shopping cart full of his belongings. After entering Julliard, Nathaniel started to hear voices in his head. Watching him struggle in flashbacks with his inner demons is fascinating and horrifying at the same time. A battle is being waged for the mind of Nathaniel and the bad guys seem to be winning.
One fateful day Lopez hears Nathaniel playing his violin in a public area in downtown L.A. Looking for another story to carry him through the tough times at the paper, he strikes up a conversation with Nathaniel. Nathaniel is all over the place with his speech, as if he's constantly free associating, verbal diarrhea that Foxx pulls off without a hitch. He's perfect for the role and he embodies it so much so that he's nearly unrecognizable. You completely forget that this is the same suave actor who was in 'Miami Vice.'
The story unfolds like a well constructed symphony, building to a magnificent crescendo of friendship and the power of the human spirit. Lopez doesn't just help Nathaniel discover who he once was, he also finds out how bad the homeless problem in L.A. really is. Much like the slums pictured in 'Slumdog Millionaire' the ghettos in Los Angeles seem to be no different. People wander the streets hungry, sleep on cardboard in doorways, and fight to survive. It's a sobering sight when Lopez travels to a community called LAMP only to find utter chaos and poverty.
'The Soloist' is a fascinating drama that wasn't marketed correctly by Dreamworks. It's not a film about a pithy newspaper reporter who combs the streets to find the down-trodden, then lifts them up by his own graces. It's about two men who mutually need one another. It is about the struggle of humanity and the scary journey of the mind when it descends into its darkest places. This is a film that deserves to be seen
The AVC-encoded 1080p HD transfer of 'The Soloist' is extremely heavy on detail, providing us with a near flawless HD presentation. Contrast is particularly strong, with each and every color appearing vivid and perfectly saturated. Interior and Exterior scenes shine in their own ways. The interior scenes feature great shadow delineation, while the exterior scenes feature fantastic lighting and detail, with nothing appearing washed out or overly saturated.
The wonderfully detailed close-ups of Foxx reveal every errant freckle on his face and every scraggly hair on his head. Perhaps the definition is too good when it comes to showing the absolute squalor some of the homeless people of L.A. live in, but that's the point of the film, not to hold back. The visuals, like the film, are unapologetic.
'The Soloist' features a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack that is more than capable of presenting the beautiful classical music featured in the film. The orchestra pieces in the Disney Concert Hall are beautifully immersive, making you feel like you're on the balcony alone enveloped by the sound. The rear channels not only help with the orchestra sequences, but help to create an ambient journey into downtown L.A. and its surrounding areas.
A movie about beautiful music could not survive without a rich, bold soundtrack, and 'The Soloist' has that. This lossless audio perfectly projects everything that is thrown at it.
'The Soloist' is a deep, thought-provoking melodrama that tackles a lot of different human issues. How do we deal with homelessness? How do we help those with mental disease? Can we help them? Should we help them? Or do they just need a friend when times are tough?
Downey and Foxx both give very solid, but understated performances. With the immaculate PQ and AQ, and a nice set of supplemental material, this BD comes highly recommended.
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