Think Of The Homeless

There are over 30 million Americans who live on the streets of our nation. Can you consider giving something to a shelter near you? Your fellow human beings need socks because they walk everywhere. Food and shelter are great too, if they will take them. So please give.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reviews by Hubie Goode: The Soloist

The Soloist
Jamie Foxx • Robert Downey Jr. • Mary Catherine Keener • Tom Hollander • Lisa Gay Hamilton

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Joe Wright. Written by Susannah Grant, based on the book by Steve Lopez. Running time: 117 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for thematic elements, some drug use and language).

We all live on the toilet. Oh, I could be nicer about that, I could say we all have to eat. But the truth is, we all like different foods. My filet mignon is probably your taco grande and so forth. But let’s face it, there comes a time (hopefully) when we all have to take a seat and spend a few private moments allowing our bodies to do away with the rejected elements of the days intake. For some of us our minds wander to the days events, or tomorrows’ cares or perhaps we take a moment to read the latest issue of Discover magazine (heh). You know that moment. I know that moment. Despite who and what we are, millionaire, movie star or poverty stricken street performer, we all know that moment.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez who is struggling to find a story that truly moves him. In a city with 90,000 homeless, many of which have their own tragic stories and lives left unfulfilled, Lopez finds a worthy story in Jamie Fox’s character Nathaniel Ayers Jr.; a one time promising cellist who suffers from mental illness and feels safer on the open streets than he does inside a closed building. To his credit, Lopez is a lot more brave in his quest to enter the world of the homeless than many people would be. I, myself, approach them when I can with a measure of caution and care when my inner mercy calls out to me to lend them a hand. I do this because I know that when you fall that far, it’s almost impossible to pick yourself up. There are those who have successfully done it though.

Lopez finds a story here, however; because he is impressed with the promise and talent he sees in Ayers as he plays a violin on the street. I think Lopez on some level sees himself in a fallen state in Ayers and this is what motivates him in his quest to have Nathaniel “saved” and restored to his lost potential. I say this because there are many scenes where Lopez has joined the homeless people of a mission in downtown Los Angeles, sitting on the steps with them, walking among them in obviously dangerous conditions and chatting with them as though they were other employees at the newspaper. But he doesn’t see a story in any of these people, just Nathan. So please understand, when he sees Nathan, he knows that moment.

This is a great movie. The actors are spot on and the production is very thoughtful. We even get an imaginary trip inside Nathan’s mind to see the colors of music as he listens to Beethoven. And how sweetly tragic that trip is. Especially when you realize that such fanciful ability qualifies him for nothing on an SAT test and is considered more a mental aberration that a useful part of his artistry. Many reviewers missed that minutiae of the main thrust of this film. They missed such revelations of not only lost and missed talent, and a life that could have gone in what we believe is a more conventional and successful direction; but also the extremely limited reality we live in that gives accountants and lawyers benefits denied to those of us who don’t fit into the square peg of our educational system.

Lopez recognizes this tragedy and he does his best to try and guide that lost non-academic genius into the light of day. The problem is, his attempts are flawed and he's misguided as to Nathaniel’s place in our universe. We all can’t be Yoyo Ma. Yoyo has his place, to bring us music and to make sure he doesn’t “bury his talent in the ground”. Nathaniel brings us music too, but he is a call to all of us about our own potential, our own place and weather or not this is OUR universe. Lopez learns this lesson toward the end of the movie. And indeed, though it may be an obvious point that we can’t change the world, the better point is that, talented or untalented, homeless, mentally challenged or brilliant business man; the opportunity for us to show mercy and friendship of mankind is there for us all in the Nathans of this world. If you come away with that realization, then you have connected with this movie in a spiritual way.

5/5 stars

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