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The Soloist - Blu-ray DVD / drama DVD / adaptation DVD review
THE SOLOIST Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 3 1/2 stars
Featuring: Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener, Tom Hollander, Lisa Gay Hamilton
Director: Joe Wright Distributor: Dreamworks Video
DVD release: 04 August 2009 Runtime: 117 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English, French), Subtitles (English SDH, French, Spanish), An Unlikely Friendship: Making The Soloist (HD), Deleted scenes, Kindness, Courtesy and Respect: Mr. Ayers + Mr. Lopez (HD), One Size Does Not Fit All: Addressing Homelessness in Los Angeles (HD), Beth's Story, Commentary (dir. Joe Wright), Theatrical trailer (HD), Juilliard: The Education of Nathaniel Ayers (HD)

After watching such successful true stories converted to movies (Coach Carter, The Hurricane, etc.) and seeing the previews for The Soloist, I was excited to see the story translated to the big screen. In many ways it works, but in others it just falls flat.

Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a columnist for the LA Times who one day happens upon a homeless man, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), playing a two-stringed violin in a park. The music Ayers is making is magical, and Lopez strikes up a conversation. He comes to realize that the mentally ill man (probably schizophrenic, but Ayers has never wanted to be officially diagnosed or medicated) attended Julliard, and his first love is the cello. Lopez and Ayers become tentative friends, while Lopez finds out more about Ayers and his past and writes columns about the interesting man. A fascinated reader donates a cello, and Lopez gets Ayers involved with LAMP (Los Angeles Men's Project) a shelter of sorts in the Skid Row area of L.A. Their relationship is not all touchy-feely, nor is it without some bumps, but the two unlikely friends forge a bond that is not quickly dissolved.

The Soloist's strength is that it doesn't try to whitewash homelessness or mental illness. It doesn't wrap the story up into a neat package with a transformational ending. This is real life, and the viewer really appreciates that real life doesn't fit into a Hollywood box. Thanks to Steve Lopez's columns, the city of Los Angeles has provided a great deal more desperately needed money to the homeless of L.A. There are between 80 and 90 thousand homeless in that city at any given time.

Unfortunately, as much as the movie tries to be sentimental and moving, it actually had the opposite effect on me. I felt forced to be moved about the plight of Ayers, and that made me less sympathetic toward him. The special features, including interviews with the real Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers, are outstanding and worth watching.

The Blu-ray quality is excellent, truly imbuing a sense of the Skid Row streets of LA and the people who live there. The high definition places the viewer in the midst of the scene (minus the smells and danger). The musical sequences translate well to HD and surround sound also.

As long as you don't have too high an expectation for The Soloist, it's an intriguing look at a man's life and the bigger picture of homelessness in Los Angeles.
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reviewed by Melissa Parcel
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