The story of the life and career of the legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles, from his humble beginnings in the South, where he went blind at age seven, to his meteoric rise to stardom during the 1950s and 1960s.
A chronicle of John Lennon's first years, focused mainly in his adolescence and his relationship with his stern aunt Mimi, who raised him, and his absentee mother Julia, who re-entered his life at a crucial moment in his young life.
Kristin Scott Thomas,
Ray Charles has the distinction of being both a national treasure and an international phenomenon. By the early 1960s, Ray Charles had accomplished his dream. He had come of age musically and had made it to Carnegie Hall. The hit records "Georgia on My Mind" and "Born to Lose" successively kept climbing to the top of the charts. He had made his first triumphant European concert tour in 1960 (a feat which, except for 1965, he has repeated at least once a year ever since). He had taken virtually every form of popular music and broken through its boundaries with such awe inspiring achievements as the LP's "Genius Plus Soul Equals Jazz" and "Modern Sounds in Country & Western". Rhythm and blues (or "race music" as it had been called) became universally respectable through his efforts. Jazz found a mainstream audience it had never previously enjoyed. And country and western music began to chart an unexpected course to general acceptance, then worldwide popularity. And along the way, Ray ... Written by
If someone had nudged me about 15 minutes into 'Ray' and asked what I thought of Jamie Foxx in the title role, it would have been time for a blank stare. After all, what is this (fictitious) person talking' about? That wasn't Jamie Foxx up on the big screen. That was Ray Charles. This is one of the best performances by anybody in recent years. Like the soundtrack, Jamie as Ray is flat-out brilliant.
The blind Genius of Soul (who took a revolutionary step of mixing gospel with R&B) died during production. The movie about his troubled life is good, not great. Taylor Hackford's direction and James L. White's script follow the well-worn biopic outline. Super-talented youngster battles adversity, achieves greatness while also self-destructing, then picks himself up out of the gutter for a happy ending. The film shows Charles' flaws (heroin abuse, chronic womanizing, persistent bastard-fathering) even as it sucks you in with his beautiful music.
Kerry Washington and Regina King play the main women in Ray's life, one his long-suffering wife and the other his longtime mistress. Both actresses match Foxx stride for stride. What takes him to a different level, though, is his deep understanding and uncanny impersonation of the great musician. The entire cast is effective, especially Sharon Warren as his headstrong mother and Curtis Armstrong as a music exec. Hackford's stars are likely to be rewarded with trophies and---better yet---more starring roles.
I was not a Ray Charles aficionado before 'Ray'. Apparently, the film has left out a lot (as do all biopics), but this picture functions as both an old-fashioned crowd pleaser AND a dark investigation of a brilliant/troubled man. For those who whine that Foxx doesn't actually sing (as if that somehow diminishes his performance), take a hike. No mere actor can sing like Mr. Charles anyway. You can't have everything. What the talented star does in this picture is about as close to "everything" as we'll probably see for a while.
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