“The Soloist” Ostentatious Disaster

Genres: Drama, Musical/Performing Arts, Adaptation and Biopic
Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.
Release Date: April 24th, 2009 (wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language.
Distributors: Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks, Universal Pictures

Directed by: Joe Wright

JJ Rating: C+

Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) is a homeless man that was once a student at Juilliard but schizophrenia debilitated him and took what was going for him and tossed it down the toilet. Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a writer with the L.A. Times and he runs into Ayers and decides he’s worth writing a piece on. The world got to know of Nathaniel Ayers and his troubles and Mr. Lopez and Mr. Ayers became great friends in the process and teaching one another along the way. The Soloist.

It is supposed to be based on a true story, but they altered it so much that it’s so loosely based on actual events they might as well have made their own version of what happened instead of pretending to go off the book. Oh wait…they did. I have been on a few tirades about books and their movie adaptations in several movie reviews of movies that are based on books. I state how retarded it is to say that the book is better, that that is an obvious statement. Well then one should know that if I ever state that it is because the movie did something drastically wrong. I’ve seen movies where they’ve changed things so much that the book and the movie could be two different stories under the same title and both are good for their own reasons. One that comes to mind is Jurassic Park. However, this is not the case. The Soloist was supposed to be based on real events that happened with Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez. Instead something devastating happened and I would like to call that the Hollywood filter.

I can understand why Lopez would be willing to compromise his story to such a degree but hope that it kept its core point so that viewers could understand what Ayers had gone through. By doing this movie deal he probably got money and so did Ayers and it was important that he do this for Ayers and Ayers’s future. I’m sure that had something to do with the agreement to this atrocity. And if that’s how it happened or close to it then I understand just fine.

The reason I gave it a mild grade instead of a devastating one is because there were aspects that I liked. I really liked that they picked Foxx and Downey to play these parts. They picked great people and they did a great job. I also enjoyed the display of schizophrenia with Ayers talking over Lopez and somehow a conversation was transpiring. I thought it was great that they used the actual homeless people in the film that lived near or in Lamp. I liked that this film tried to explain the complexly of the disease as well as how one tries to cope with it and how it feels for those on the other side of it.

That is it, though. They took information that was perfect as is and molded it into something that I don’t even recognize. Had I not read the book I would have been confused as to what was going on and why. I state this because my father saw this movie and he had not read the book and he was confused as to who Ayers’s sister was and who his mother was. The entire movie felt totally disjointed and all over the place. I did not understand why they decided to change so much, such as Lopez’s marriage. He is married and has a daughter but in the film he’s divorce and has an older son. Then when Ayers gets lessons he gets them from someone from Disney Hall. I don’t know who this person was in the movie. It was confusing because he was religious and I don’t recall religion even being part of the book.

I think if this film told the story more like Battlestar Galactica told its stories that it would have worked out better. The story would unfold in real time, but flashbacks would come up that would be pertinent to the present events, and tie in with past events giving more insight into how Ayers worked as a person and why he reacted the way he did.

The book was far from being complete as in having a middle a beginning and an end like a normal story. It ended in a way that indicated the story was still going. It was a revealing of a person more so than a telling of a story. The movie totally missed that in every aspect it showed. There was a slight connection to the people in how the story was told in the book as in I pulled and hopped for Ayers to be ok and to accept the help that was being offered to him, but it wasn’t a total drama story. It informed me and I enjoyed it and was happy that certain people were so giving.

The dark side of Ayers was shown in the book. It was not the dark side of him as much as it was the dark side of schizophrenia and how they tend to be racist and verbally abusive at times. It didn’t show that as much as it should have to give people the feel of what actually happens. They totally dropped the ball and I’m sad because of it.

The Soloist missed the giving and the revealing as themes to go off of. Instead it went in a totally different direction that had nothing to do with the soul of the story and everything to do with being totally wacked in the head and retarded. I am so disappointed and upset. I am not afraid to suggest people read the book and see that I am not exaggerating and that the book is not only better, but it should have been a template for the film more so than it was.

Susannah Grant adapted the screenplay. She wrote the following screenplays: Catch and Release, Charlotte’s Web, In Her Shoes, Unfaithful, 28 Days, Center Stage, Erin Brockovich, Ever After, and Pocahontas. Where in that list does it show that she has the potential to adapt a true story to film, let alone a film about two men? There is also nothing in this list that would show she has ever done anything with mental illness unless one counts 28 Days and they shouldn’t. Why they okayed her is beyond me.

I think the reason the film should be called The Soloist is because they, as a group, acted independent from the source material so much that the help it could have provided in explanation of why and how did not occur. Instead it took the selfish and ostentatious route and it totally pissed me off because it did.

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