Geez I'm chatty lately! So much stuffed in this pretty little head begging to come out (ha).
Okay, The Soloist is out now, or at least opening soon. I have to highly recommend this, even though I haven't seen it. What I do know is that rather than reading the book, I actually read Steve Lopez's column in the LA Times, as the whole story unfolded (which later became the book). Steve Lopez is my favorite columnist anyway, but this is one of his best series.
He's dealing with poverty, mental illness, people's attitudes towards the mentally ill, and shows how people can make a difference, even though there may not be a happy ending. He spends a great deal of time on skid row, meets a schizophrenic musician, gets to know him, and finds that he's actually a former Juilliard student that once schooled with Yo Yo Ma. He doesn't clean him up, make it all better, and suddenly the bum (sarcastic here) becomes a star. Not that easy.
Actually, it's far more realistic than this. Lopez tries to help while battling the mercurial moods of the schizophrenic, the lack of appreciation for his efforts, several wasted attempts at help, lost meetings, wasted money, etc. He shows that even when shone a better life, a more "normal" life, a person who is mentally ill may not choose that. If he even consciously has a choice in the matter.
Many people may find it amazing that someone so incredibly, deeply messed up could have such a staggering musical gift. Savant like.
It's amazing and touching. Especially in that Lopez gets into this so deeply, when he could easily report from afar. The movie has Robert Downey Jr. playing Lopez (generous!) and Jamie Foxx as the musician (I think his name was Nate). It has Oscar potential, but I don't want that interfering with Viggo Mortensen getting an Oscar for The Road (if it ever comes out). It's billed as a 'feel good' movie, but if it is close to the original column, that may be misleading. It's an intense, real story. It doesn't have to 'feel good'.