Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Soloist Review + A Homeless Rant

I watched The Soloist last night, and I was intrigued enough to finish the film to the end. The movie depicts the true story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, Jr. (Jamie Foxx), a prodigious musician that attends Julliard, develops a mental disorder, drops out, and lives homeless on the streets of L.A. for years. He is befriended by Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.), a writer for the L.A. Times, after Lopez spots Ayers on the streets playing the violin. Ayers is looking for a story, and after learning that Ayers is a Julliard drop-out, he decides to write about Ayers.

The movie largely deals with homelessness, as well as the beauty of music and the power of friendship. Homelessness, a matter that is particularly touching to my heart (see here), is a gut-tugging lifestyle depicted in the movie. While this movie does not go into great detail of life on the streets, it still is eye-opening and relevant. I was reminded of John Grisham's The Street Lawyer, which is phenomenal if you haven't read it.

Another aspect of the movie that I enjoyed was the relationship Ayers had with music. He would seek out his refuge in the music he played, often finding his only solace in the comfort of the notes. You could see Ayer's relationship with music clearly on his face, the love he had was in his eyes, in the way his hands played. It was artistic, and I think artists can relate to the feelings Ayers exemplified.

The final thing that propelled the story was the development of Lopez. At first he just wants a story, but soon he has a friend that he begins to care about. His concern for Ayers is evident, and this relationship is touching to watch.

Even with all of these things, I can't say that the movie was wonderful. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be. What The Soloist is is a film that offers hope to the viewer by observing the courage of Ayers. It also is a window into homelessness, and in my book, anything that sheds light on this problem deserves a special sort of place. What kind of country are we if we can't take care of our own starving, hurting, homeless people? Are we too stiff-necked to give out some money to someone in need? Oh, if you give out your money then you won't be able to buy yourself something superfluous? Oh, okay, I'm sorry. You just go right ahead and buy that extra pair of pants you've been eyeballing. That's okay. You need fifty pair anyway, to help balance the economy, since the homeless man has only one pair, unless he's really lucky and has two.

I don't get it. I understand that some people make bad choices and are sentenced to a life on the streets. People who gamble away their money and can't afford to pay their rent, or who spend their cash on drugs and other fixes instead of paying their bills. That's all understood, but what about the majority of the people? The ones who try to live, who make a mistake or two, and who ultimately end out on the streets because of a few mistakes. In fact, the entire premise of not wanting to give to a homeless person based on "they've had their chance" seems unfair. I dare say, have you not made mistakes in life? Were you not given extra help along the way? If you're reading this blog, then you are magnitudes better than millions of others out there.

The problem with homelessness can't be that we don't have enough housing. In my community, there are hundreds of houses and condos and apts up for sale/rent. I'm willing to bet this is true across the country. No, the problem with homelessness is that our country depends too much on the Almighty Dollar. We're a cut-and-paste society, with clear-cut rules and a kill-or-be-killed attitude. There is no grace in our hearts; we're all every man for himself.

That's disgusting, unbecoming, and embarrassing. What is it about our society that compels us to be ahead, to be at the top of the ladder? We look and see things we want, which are too expensive, so we get a job to make money to buy things to only want more things. That implies that the problem is deeper than money. The problem is our insatiable desire.

Yes, Desire is the true evil here. In itself, desire is not a bad thing. It motivates us to achieve things, to help people, to create vessels capable of exploring the heavens. But where should we limit our desires? How selfish are we allowed to be before we are truly selfish? Friends, I'm sad to write it, but I don't have the answer. There is no harm in buying things for yourself, but how much can we afford while our other brothers and sisters can't even eat?

The whole point of this is sickening. I can't tell you how much is too much if I don't know myself. All I know is that when the opportunity arises for us to help someone in need, we should snap it up and help with all we can. Who knows, one day we could be just another beggar on the streets.


Krista said...
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Krista said...

Great Post! It's all very sad indeed!

I'm fortunate enough to have a roof over my head and food on the table, but if it wasn't for my Mom and Dad we'd never feel the luxuries of life (they took us on that trip!). My parents have helped me out in many more ways then I can explain, and even more so after my husband left. Life has taken a turn for us, but we're hanging in there, and making the best with what we have. If there were more parents out there like my own I don't think there'd be any homeless left! I'd be totally lost without them and maybe even living on the streets myself, because they've given us a room in there home until our life can get back to normal. I wouldn't be nearly as happy as I am now without them!

You know what, that's not even the half of it, because I'm there child. But throughout my life my Parents have taken in three different people that didn't have anywhere to go or a penny to there name. Seriously. Two men and one woman who ended up being the mother of my cousin(who my cousin doesn't even know, and her life story is crazy.) Two of them repaid them by robbing them and the other was a total druggy, can you believe it, and after the first they still continued to take in others, it's amazing! I have complete respect and love for my parents.

logankstewart said...

Absolutely right, Krista. It's great to see people respecting their parents for all the things they do. I commend them for their courage and compassion for taking in and helping people in need. I commend you, also, for having the courage to hang in there and continue on with life, even when it seems so bleak. I pray that Christ will bless you and your wonderful parents and your little girl.

David Wagner said...

It's a complex issue, really. I know out here in San Diego, the homeless that you see are 99% of the time the ones that are using it as a racket, sitting on street corners with signs asking for help, looking doleful, and strolling away at the end of a few hours with far more money than they would ever make working full time for minimum wage. I've seen the news reports where they film these people, then follow them to their homes, where they change into normal clothing and head off to the mall to spend the money that they just panhandled. Or they brag about how easy it is to panhandle dough and then sit around drinking beer the rest of the day...

The real homeless you don't see. I have a documentary in my Netflix queue called Dark Days that I haven't quite summoned the nerve to watch yet.

Here's the link: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20001020/REVIEWS/10200303/1023 

That's to Roger Ebert's review of it. Guess I should bite the bullet and send for it. Should have watched it when it was available on Watch Instantly...

logankstewart said...

Thanks for the link, Dave. I've got a documentary on my shelf at home about child warriors from Uganda that I've not had the stomach yet to watch.

I agree with you about the panhandlers and freeloaders. Those folks need to be punished and charged with some sort of crime, but separating the true homeless from the fakes is too difficult to do. So, I find myself trusting in man. Aye, that makes me a bit naive, but not ignorant.

Krista said...

Thanks, Logan, prayers are always welcome!

Krista said...

I ended up watching the Soloist last night, and it really was pretty good! Thanks for the Review!