I just returned home from seeing The Soloist, which opened today and stars Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. The film is based on the book The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez and has its roots in a true story that occurred and was documented by Lopez in Los Angeles.
Adam and I had seen the previews for the film several months ago and had been looking forward to seeing it, since our family shares such a love of music. I want to encourage you to read the Bishops’ review of the film here and Decent Films’ review of the film here prior to making the decision about whether or not this is a film for your mature teens to view. There were a few instances of bad language and a drug reference. The reviews state that there were also adult themes, but somehow I didn’t spot them. Perhaps that was because I was so engrossed in the beauty of the story, the gripping depictions of the actors, and the amazing music. Adam and I were both very moved by the way the film did not shy away from showing the true face of homelessness and mental illness. Many of the film’s extras are residents of Skid Row — no punches are pulled and it’s not prettied up.
There are a few things I didn’t especially like about the film. First, there is a bit of “potty humor” that seems undignified for a film of this caliber. Second, religion is not portrayed in a positive light in the film. The only overtly religious character is a professional cellist who volunteers to take on the role of private teacher for Foxx’s character. He is an over-the-top evangelical who casts Christians in a very negative light. Foxx takes to calling Downey’s character, journalist Steve Lopez, his “god”. Although the film has strong social justice leanings and an outright discussion of the concept of grace, the real “God” sadly does not have a place in the script.
Ultimately, The Soloist is a wonderful reminder that every human person, regardless of his or her life circumstances, is deserving of love and dignity. I was very moved by the film and am now anxious to read The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music. More importantly, however, the film reminds me not to be complacent about the plight of the homeless in my own community and to be more supportive of the tremendous work being done by our local Catholic Charities agency.