Oscar Movie Month: "Ray" Review

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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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Rating: PG-13

Length: 152 minutes

Release Date: October 29, 2004

Directed by: Taylor Hackford

Genre: Biography / Drama / Music

 

Viewers watch as the tale of legendary musician Ray Charles unfolds in this 2004 film by director Taylor Hackford. Hackford is an accomplished producer and director with other films such as "Proof of Life" and "The Devil's Advocate" under his belt. In "Ray," Hackford chose Jamie Foxx to play the lead role of blind musician Ray Charles, and Foxx carried out this role with expert technique as he showed Charles' quick rise to fame in the 1950s and 1960s.

Jamie Foxx is known to take on a variety of roles, as he has had great success in dramas, comedies and action movies alike. With his fantastic resume and variable skill set, he is an excellent choice for Ray Charles. In the way he portrays his character in "Ray," viewers cannot tell that Jamie is not actually blind. 

The audience of this movie follows the life of Ray Charles from the time he was just a small boy. They see him lose his brother to drowning and later lose his eyesight at the tender age of 7 years old. Moviegoers watch his no-nonsense mother push him in ways that at times seem excessive. Her pushing, as hard as it is to watch at times, allows Ray to grow into an independent adult who depends on no one but himself. Though his mother has very little money and education of her own, she insists that Ray go to a school for the blind that gives him the confidence he needs to face the world head on.

Ray learns about his surroundings without the assistance of a walking stick and fosters his love of music despite his inability to see. Viewers marvel at his bravery in leaving his home and traveling to Seattle where he works to find his musical voice. Ray chooses to foster his love of music in Seattle because of the club scene, which is ideal for the type of music he wants to play. Moviegoers watch the early days of Ray Charles' career and see how he worked to create his own unique sound.

Though there is a lot of singing throughout the movie, it is not something that Jamie Foxx tackles himself. Before Ray Charles' death, he was working on this film as well, so there was plenty of audio recording to work with. In addition, it would be impossible for anyone, including Foxx, to recreate Ray's singing perfectly. While he did not choose to sing, his lip syncing is flawless. The fact that he is faking it is nearly undetectable to moviegoers. The piano music, however, is all Foxx. 

For his role in "Ray," Jamie Foxx mastered all of Charles' mannerisms and quirks. In the film, Foxx speaks in Ray Charles' start-stop speech pattern and embraces his jokester personality. His acting is impeccable in the happy times of Charles' life and when things take a turn for the worst. After all, this film is not only about the historic rise to fame during the '50s and '60s. "Ray" also chronicles the darker times of Charles' life. For example, viewers learn about how much he loved women. They see this as he cheats on his wife repeatedly, though he has no intention to leave her. His honesty about his multiple affairs either pushes the audience against him or makes them admire his ability to communicate his actions fully when needed.

While moviegoers watch Ray cheat on his wife and have a child with one of his mistresses, they also become aware of his strong addiction to heroin. He gets his first taste of it on the road, and as his career grew, so did his yearning for the drug. It is shocking for the audience to see just how unlovable Ray becomes while on heroin, and viewers are saddened when he hits his low and is arrested for possession. This is actually a turning point in the movie for him, though, as he is ordered to a treatment facility. The movie ends with Ray finally getting clean and returning to the family man he once was.

"Ray" is not a typical biography that is full of forced information, rather it is an inspiring look at one man's rise to stardom. The flick is full of ups and downs, and viewers learn to appreciate Ray Charles for the way he overcomes his immense struggles by the end of the film. Jamie Foxx's acting in "Ray" is top-notch, which gives viewers an authentic look at the life of this great musician.

Rating: 4 out of 5