More Like A Duet, Actually
Steve sees a story in Nathaniel, and his research leads him to discover that Nathaniel was once a student at the prestigious Juilliard School studying the cello. Further research and time spent with Nathaniel reveals his losing battle with schizophrenia. Jamie Foxx gives a striking portrayal of Nathaniel Ayers, unnerving the viewer with Ayers' unpredictable mental state while charming them with the character's child-like manner and passion for music. Foxx is at his best here in The Soloist, also giving one of the best performances of his career. Lopez sees Nathaniel simply as an interesting subject to write on at first but the more time Steve spends with Nathaniel, the more Steve wants to help him succeed as a musician. That proves to be a difficult task, for both Steve and Nathaniel, and their relationship becomes quite complex.
Apart from the character drama aspect of the film, Wright also uses The Soloist to comment on the problems of homelessness in the United States. Unlike the many other aspects that make The Soloist a great movie - the themes of friendship, the powerful style, the incredible music, the first-rate acting, etc. - this social commentary portion of the film does not work at all. Looking at all of the homeless people presented in the film (and, to be fair, it is unclear if Wright meant to do this or not), The Soloist presents a clear answer as to why all of these people are homeless: they are all insane!
So while the social statement of the film dies on impact, the stylish character drama played out perfectly by Downey Jr. and Foxx remains strong and easily carries The Soloist on its own. In the end, Wright delivers yet another brilliant film.
CBC Rating: 9/10