Only in L.A.: “The Soloist”

Only in L.A.: “The Soloist”

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Los Angeles.

El Pueblo de la Reyna de los Angeles. “The town of the Queen of Angels.”

(Wikipedia Photo)

Aka “City of Angels.”

Call it what you will—and what the Spanish called it is in dispute—to tens of thousands of homeless people who live and die there, it’s the “City of Lost Angels.”

LA Homeless
(Ray From L.A. Flickr Photo)

Except for one of those lost angels who was found playing a violin  on the streets of El Pueblo de la Reyna de los Angeles.

Director Joe Wright’s 2009 film, The Soloist, is the story of two men struggling with life.

Nathaniel Ayers life held a lot a promise. He was studying the cello at Julliard. He could have been a soloist with a symphonic orchestra in any major U.S. city.

But he drops out of school, and moves to L.A.

Ayers hears the music of Beethoven as he plays, but also the voices of demons in his head telling him to trust no one.

He couldn’t stand to live comfortably indoors, so he moved onto the streets.

Los Angeles Times columnist, Steve Lopez, works for his ex-wife, Mary.

They have a son. They are obviously struggling to maintain a cordial working and parenting relationship.

The newspaper is struggling to stay afloat financially, and Lopez is struggling to find stories worth writing about for the paper.

And that’s when Lopez happens upon Ayers, playing a two-string violin next to a statute.

Lopez sees two sides of Ayers: The musical genius, and the “mental case.”

Ayers provides fodder for Lopez’ newspaper column. But Lopez doesn’t just “use” Ayers, he tries to help him find a better way to live in the world and to share his music.

The film might have been titled The Schizophrenic and The Newshound, after the life roles of its two protagonists.

Jamie Farr, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the 2004 film Ray, learned to play the cello to gear up for his role as Nathaniel Ayers.

Robert Downey, Jr., who has battled his own demons, turns in a great performance as Steve Lopez.

Here is the trailer for this brilliantly filmed and edited movie.


Some of the scenes in which the homeless population appear are a bit chilling. But unlike other memorable films set in L.A. such as Chinatown, Double Indemnity, L.A. Confidential, Mulholland Drive, and Sunset Boulevard, one senses that the outcome of The Soloist will not be so dark and forbidding.

If the story was a fictional fabrication, it could have been set in almost any large American city. Atlanta. Chicago. New York. Philadelphia. San Francisco.

But The Soloist had to be filmed in Los Angeles. That’s became Ayers and Lopez aren’t fictional characters contrived by Hollywood. They were and are real people. And The Soloist is based on Lopez’ book of the same name.

El Pueblo de la Reyna de los Angeles. “The town of the Queen of Angels.”

Aka “City of Angels.”

Make that “City of Angels, Lost and Found.”

(The Soloist movie is available for purchase and rental from where you can also buy Steve Lopez’ book, The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music. The online retailer also offers buyers Chinatown, Double Indemnity, L.A. Confidential, Mulholland Drive, and Sunset Boulevard. Purchases made from through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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