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.
Detroit, the early 1960s. Curtis Taylor, Jr., a car salesman, breaks into the music business with big dreams. He signs a trio of young women, the Dreamettes, gets them a job backing an R&B performer, James "Thunder" Early, establishes his own record label and starts wheeling and dealing. When Early flames out, Curtis makes the Dreamettes into headliners as the Dreams, but not before demoting their hefty big-voiced lead singer, Effie White, and putting the softer-voiced looker, Deena Jones, in front. Soon after, he fires Effie, sends her into a life of proud poverty, and takes Deena and the Dreams to the top. How long can Curtis stay there, and will Effie ever get her due? Written by
Yes there are great performances here. Unfortunately, they happen in the context of a movie that doesn't seem to have a clue what it's doing. During the first 45-60 minutes of this all the music takes place as realistic performance. Suddenly, about an hour in, the characters who, until this point, had always spoken to each other, suddenly start singing to each other. To further confuse things, a little further in, out of nowhere, they actually do about 15 minutes of sung-through dialog, then seem to drop that idea and move on to other things, such as a number that begins in a jazz club with a drummer and two electric guitars suddenly turning into a fully orchestrated piece with a massive unseen string section. On top of all this inconsistency in how the music is used, is the composers' clear inability to actually write music in the style that is supposedly being portrayed. While the first couple of pieces do sort of mimic the 1950s Motown sound, the rest of the film is just (bad) Broadway show music. Then there's the pure silliness of snippets of a group doing a bad Jackson family imitation and Eddie Murphy morphing from Little Richard to James Brown to Lionel Richie. When he started channeling Stevie Wonder I couldn't help laughing out loud. This was clearly one of those films that make me appreciate how little time I have on earth and resent that I wasted two hours of it watching this film.
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