The Soloist

That felt odd: An adult film for an adult audience. No car crashes, no sweaty bodies, no blowie uppie stuff.

Instead, we are taken to contemporary Los Angeles (where 90,000 homeless people live today in the sorry, sad underside of the city) and follow a real-life reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Steve Lopez, played by the extraordinary Robert Downey, Jr. ("Iron Man," "Tropic Thunder" and "Zodiac"). We are given entree to Disney Hall and the opportunity to hear the Los Angeles Philharmonic, plus we visit the Los Angeles Times newsroom.

Our reporter encounters a street person named Nathaniel Ayers, capably depicted by Jamie Foxx (an Academy Award for "Ray," plus "Jarhead" and "Dreamgirls"), who is playing a two-stringed violin, although we later learn that the cello is actually this classically trained musician's instrument of choice. Curious, the reporter lingers to see if he can get a human interest article out of their chance meeting.

As the story progresses, the reporter learns more than he ever anticipated about mental illness, homelessness and art. Like the rest of us, Lopez is convinced that if he provides a clean apartment and finds the right medication for Ayers, he will soon be "normal." Very quickly, it becomes clear just how frustrating and intractable a problem like Ayers' can be. We are treated to a light show as we "see" music through the eyes of a man suffering from schizophrenia and we glean from his stream-of-consciousness rants, why this sick man refuses his meds.

What a joy to see two wonderful actors given the latitude to work their magic and convince us that these real-life men were actually up on that screen. Kudos to the director, Joe Wright ("Pride and Prejudice" and "Atonement") for not dumbing down the screenplay. We are in his debt. According to the fellow who introduced the film to our screening crowd, both Lopez and Ayers attended opening night for "The Soloist" in Los Angeles.