Movie vs. Reality: The Soloist
By Felix Quinonez Jr.
August 6, 2012
Steve quickly goes on a search for Nathaniel. When he finds Nathaniel, Steve informs him of his plan to write a column on him. Nathaniel does not seem interested in what Steve is saying. Eventually Steve realizes he is getting nowhere, so he decides to contact Nathaniel’s sister. She gives the journalist some information on Nathaniel and his condition. Nathaniel used to be a musical prodigy but while at Juilliard, he began displaying symptoms of schizophrenia. Unable to handle the emerging disease and the pressure of attending the prestigious school, Nathaniel dropped out. At first he was living with his mom but eventually wound up on the streets.
After Steve’s first column is released, a reader is so touched that she sends a cello to Steve’s office, which he brings to Nathaniel. Unfortunately, Steve wonders if the instrument will make Nathaniel a target for a mugging or worse. Fearing for Nathaniel’s safety, he talks him into leaving the instrument at a shelter. Steve tells Nathaniel he can play the instrument anytime; he just has to go to the shelter to do so.
As he gets to know him more, Steve becomes genuinely concerned for Nathaniel and tries to get a doctor to help him. He also tries to talk Nathaniel into moving into an apartment. Later, he tries to rehabilitate Nathaniel through music. His plan is to provide Nathaniel with music lessons at the apartment.
When things start to look like they are getting better, Steve suggests that Nathaniel’s sister be made his executor. All Nathaniel has to do is sign some papers, which Steve brings over to the apartment. Unfortunately, as Nathaniel is reading the papers, he notices that it states that he has a schizophrenic mind. This angers him greatly and he blows up on Steve. Nathaniel becomes so enraged that he actually attacks Steve and threatens to kill him.
Steve gives Nathaniel time to cool off but soon realizes how much of an impact Nathaniel has had on his own life. As a result, Steve is determined to make amends with Nathaniel, who also wants to patch things up. When Nathaniel’s sister comes to LA, the three of them spend time together. Later on, Lopez wonders if he has actually made a difference in Nathaniel’s life. Nathaniel still hears voices, but at least he no longer lives on the streets. In the end it is revealed that Ayers is still a member of the shelter and that Lopez is learning how to play the guitar.
What the Movie Got Wrong
It’s understandable that a movie like this one would make a few changes to the source material, but the movie wastes no time in taking liberties. The way Lopez described his initial meeting with Nathaniel must have not seemed exciting enough for the filmmakers. He was on foot heading back to the office and just happened to see Nathaniel. However, the movie felt the need to concoct an accident that leaves Steve in the Emergency Room. It is from his hospital room that he first hears Nathaniel play.
It’s kind of odd that they chose to fabricate this accident considering how quickly it is forgotten. The only thing that comes out of it is a feeble attempt to show how crowded emergency rooms get and how overworked its staff members are. But any sort of commentary on the state of the hospital system quickly falls by the wayside and so do Steve’s injuries. When he arrives home from the hospital, he mentions that he might feel disoriented for up to four weeks. But in the next scene, he’s back at work and fine. No time jump was mentioned or hinted at and the bruise on his eye looks the same.