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PCR #474 (Vol. 10, No. 17). This edition is for the week of April 20--26, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Soloist"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr. and Catherine Keener
Directed by: Joe Wright
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 1 hour 49 mins

While riding his bicycle one morning, Los Angeles Times columnist Steven Lopez (Downey)finds his path crossed by a raccoon and down he goes, face first, into the concrete. While recuperating from his injuries, he stumbles upon a homeless man sawing away on a violin. Or at least it used to be a violin. With two strings remaining the sound is rough but the talent is noticeable. Lopez strikes up a conversation with the man, who introduces himself as Nathaniel (Foxx), and learns that he once went to Juliard. Intrigued, Lopez does some background work and proceeds to write a series of stories about Nathaniel and his love of music. As the stories progress, so does the friendship between the two men, though it’s not one without drama.

Inspired by a true story and based on Lopez’ book by the same name, “The Soloist” is a story about the redemption of two men. Lopez, who tries to distance himself from his subject while working side by side with him, finds himself drawn to the human side of his own stories. When Nathaniel discloses that his original instrument of choice was the cello a used one is sent to him through Lopez, and the reaction is one like a child on Christmas morning. It is obvious to Lopez that Nathaniel is mentally ill, and he uses his love for music as a way to help Nathaniel try to assimilate himself back into the “real” world.

What could have been a standard movie of the week in lesser hands is a dramatic tour de force thanks to Foxx and Downey. Some actors go overboard when playing a character who is mentally challenged, but Foxx manages to portray Nathaniel’s various moods realistically, often conveying his emotions, from pain to delight, with just his eyes. Downey is equally as good, his character becoming drawn more and more into the world he writes about. Both actors deliver award worthy performances and I hope their work here is remembered at the end of the year. As Lopez’ editor and former wife, Keener is also strong in a limited role. The soundtrack is outstanding, the music of Beethoven and Bach providing a story of its own. Director Wright (“Atonement”) uses his cameras to penetrate the world of the homeless, a world that Nathaniel embraces and, more importantly, embraces him. When Lopez tries to get him to move off of the streets Nathaniel resists, explaining that when he plays on the street the wings of the pigeons flying by sound like applause when amplified by the sounds of the city. It is a way for him to recapture the promise of his talent while not having to acknowledge his situation. As the story progresses, both men discover that compromise is not as easy as they think.

On a scale of zero to four I give “The Soloist”


This week's movie review of "The Soloist" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2009, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.