“The Soloist” is the true-life tale and eye-opening account of the life of a Los Angeles homeless man, street musician and Skid Row inhabitant named Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, played by Jamie Foxx.
Produced in 2008, this drama takes the viewer on an intriguing and humbling trail, down which one day in a small park, a man on a two-stringed violin attracted the attention of a columnist from the LA Times, and ultimately, the attention of the world.
LA Times columnist Steve Lopez, played by Robert Downey Jr., learned in his first encounter with Ayers that he had at one time been a student at The Juilliard School of Music. Lopez decided to write a column about Ayers because he thought it would make an interesting story to tell readers how a Juilliard educated man ended up on the streets of Los Angeles, with a shopping cart.
It’s never actually diagnosed in the movie, but it is suggested that Ayers has some sort of mental disorder, such as schizophrenia. He seemed to like to dress in costume. He liked to play music under the tunnels of highway overpasses, because he felt that’s when the music was most alive, when it was conjoined with all the sounds of the city.
As portrayed in the movie, Lopez’s columns about Ayers drew some significant attention. His research and what became a friendship with Ayers required Lopez to spend time in Skid Row, Los Angeles. Skid Row is a small part of the city designated by the government as a place where homeless people are allowed to sleep on the streets.
From what I saw in the movie and can compare to my own life, Skid Row is kind of like a music festival. There were streets lined with people and tents. There was action, there was hustling, and there was bustling…But honey, there ain’t no band coming on any sort of stage at Skid Row. It is just blocks of homeless people…cardboard boxes…drugs…violence…mentally ill…and apparently a man named Ayers who captivated some of his homeless comrades with his musical performances.
A city donation of $50 million to help improve Skid Row was a direct result of the publication of Ayer’s story…though I am not sure if that happened in actuality, or only in the movie. A quick Google search did not answer my question.
I think the most important theme people involved with this story wanted to get across to viewers is the value of a friendship. In this situation an unlikely encounter lead two strangers into a kind of weird friendship, but it benefitted both of their lives immeasurably.
I give “The Soloist” an A because it was a great human interest story. Heck, maybe I’ll go befriend a bum….