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.
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The story of Ray Charles, music legend. Told in his adult live with flashbacks to his youth we see his humble origins in Florida, his turbulent childhood which included losing his brother and then his sight, his rise as pianist in a touring band, his writing his own songs and running his own band and then stardom. Also includes his addiction to drugs and its affect on his working life and family life. 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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