DRAMA; 1hr 57min
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr, Jamie Foxx
Damaged property: from left, Downey and Foxx
For Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez (Downey), a chance meeting in 2005 with Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Foxx) starts out as an inspiration for a column. Babbling a blue streak and pushing a loaded shopping cart, Ayers is obviously mentally unstable and homeless, yet he plays his two-string violin like a virtuoso and was once a student at New York’s renowned Juilliard School of Music. How did such a gifted man wind up on the streets? As Lopez’s relationship with Ayers deepens, Atonement director Joe Wright’s flashback sequences show Ayers as a young cellist consumed by music and suffering a schizophrenic breakdown.
The fact-based screenplay by Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) detours into a seldom seen Los Angeles — a Skid Row lost city of the sick and the dispossessed. More precarious still is the landscape of Ayers’s mind, portrayed by a frayed, sad and manic Foxx as continually at war with itself. Downey, meanwhile, makes a restrained and sympathetic Lopez, who struggles with the responsibility of being Ayers’s friend in a story of healing that knows when to stop.