Jamie Foxx Gives Life To Legendary Musician Ray Charles In New Movie

An endless supply of booze, money, women and drugs, all supplied to you without having to show up every day for a nine-to-five job. Many movies have been made about this overindulgent and fantastical lifestyle – that of the rock star. However, not many are made about rhythm and blues, jazz or country singers. Never mind one who is African-American – and blind. Ray is a film that has many of the elements of the typical “E! True Hollywood Story,” but more importantly, it touches upon pieces of our country’s history that are so often neglected by pop culture. Ray is the life story of legendary musician Ray Charles Robinson (as we know him, Ray Charles). It is a biopic film which sheds light on the man behind the legend, behind the front-page stories of drug arrests and illegitimate children; but more than that, it is a story about how music has the power to affect change on a culture. This is something that we rarely see today, and most often associate with rock music of the 1960’s and 70’s (think protest songs such as “Ohio” or “Peace Train”). But music and musicians that use their medium, whether consciously or not, to shift our culture into a new direction started before the advent of what we think of as “rock and roll.”Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Ray Charles was arguably the single most effective part of the movie, bringing Ray Charles to the stage one last time. Every once in a while, an actor comes along who plays a role so fully and completely that while watching the movie one rarely thinks about him as an “actor,” and just accepts him as the person he is portraying. This is the case with Foxx. The uncanny resemblance, coupled with the amazing ability Foxx has to reproduce the physical presence and mannerisms of Ray Charles makes for an unforgettable performance. Foxx also wrote, produced and performed two of the songs on the movie’s soundtrack. Ray Charles’ life, though enviable is some respects, was not an easy one. Born to a poor Georgian family in 1930, Ray experienced the loss of his sight not at birth, but at the age of seven. Left with his other senses to get him through life, Ray cultivated a gift for hearing and listening that enabled him to become such an amazing musician. The movie handles Ray’s childhood and upbringing through the use of flashback. While this can be jarring at points, the flashbacks serve the purpose of explaining how Ray got to where he did and suggest a possibility as to why he ended up the person he did. The flashbacks also come at places in the movie where they are relevant and conducive to the plot of the film. Director Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman) not only handled the flashbacks in an interpretive and understandable fashion, but also successfully used music to differentiate the times and serve as a device that pulls the audience into or out of the flashback. The role of music in a movie about a musician is obviously going to be a big one; however, the soundtrack to Ray goes beyond giving a sample of Ray Charles’ sound to the audience and begins to tell a story of its own. Often referred to as the “father of soul,” Charles morphed gospel music with jazz and blues to create an entirely unique genre. This also introduced the country to something that many people referred to as sacrilegious and devil music. As with the beginnings of most new forms of art, there was controversy, but Charles didn’t back away, and today we have many offshoots to the original sounds of soul. This story comes across loud and clear in the movie, complete with the political ramifications of an African-American man making it big on the pop charts with this new “devilish” music. Whether or not you enjoy music and are interested in its origins, “Ray” is a film to watch for its unique and complex story about overcoming struggle. The truth is often stranger than fiction. While at times the film borders on too long and overly detailed (at a little over two and a half hours), the music and flashback scenes keep the plot interesting and moving along at a decent pace. Ray has something for everybody; a fine acting job to admire, a great soundtrack, an interesting history lesson and a juicy story. Foxx will no doubt make you see the soul that Ray Charles gave to this country.