25 ago. 2010

My Review: Ray (9/10)

¨If you want to do something to make your mama proud, promise me. Promise me you won't let nobody turn you into no cripple, you won't become no charity case, and you'll stand on your own two feet.¨

Ray Charles kept his promise and stood on his own two feet on the road to becoming one of the most beloved music entertainer`s of our century. Sure, he had to battle blindness and several addictions that tried to cripple him for life, but he was able to rise above them and become part of music history by being the first to fusion rhythm and blues with gospel music, and he even made country and western music popular throughout the world. Taylor Hackford (The Devil`s Advocate and Proof of Life) did a great job with the direction of this movie focusing more on Ray`s early years and his rise to fame during which he had to battle drug addictions that almost crippled him for life. Hackford also co-wrote the story with James L. White. The film is very well produced, but the success of the movie relies heavily on the performance from Jamie Foxx. He really captured the essence of Ray Charles and mimicked his every movie. Thanks to the great amount of footage of Charles`s life Foxx was able to study him and also met him for a couple of weeks while shooting the film. Foxx`s Oscar winning performance was stunning and he made me believe I was actually seeing the real Ray Charles and not an actor. Foxx was mostly known for his comedic performance, but he had proved himself in dramatic roles before with Any Given Sunday and Collateral. The musical score of Ray was absolutely breathtaking and another reason why this biopic works so well. Ray runs for more than 150 minutes and the main focus of the movie is on his music. The movie doesn`t waste time diving in too deep on the psychological elements of his life and focuses mainly on his music, but it doesn´t leave out his personal fight with his addictions so it doesn`t try to make him look like an angel either. In other words, his life isn`t sugar-coated.

 The movie begins with a nineteen year old blind Ray (Jamie Foxx) who is travelling to Seattle in the late forty`s to audition for Gossie McGee (Terrence Howard). He plays at a small bar for a few people, but he shows his talent playing some Nat King Cole songs. Gossie loves his music and so does his manager Marlene (Denise Dowse) who decides to sign him to perform at her bar. I guess the movie opens in Seattle because it marked an important time for Ray where he met his friend Quincy Jones (Larenz Tate) and also was introduced to drugs. The movie also has several flashbacks of Ray`s childhood (young Ray was played by C.J. Sanders) in Florida where he grew up with his mother Aretha (Sharon Warren) and younger brother George (Terrone Bell). These flashbacks deal with his humble beginnings, the death of his brother George, the disease that left him blind at seven, and his mother`s impact on his life. Ray is taken advantage of in Seattle, but he is no dumb blind man and slowly works his way to the top signing deals with Jack Lauderdale (Robert Wisdom), executive of Swingtime Records where he meets his future band manager Jeff Brown (Clifton Powell), later on with Atlantic Records where he truly finds his own voice and is not taken advantage of for the first time in his life. The producers of Atlantic are Ahmet (Curtis Armstrong) and Jerry Wexler (Richard Schiff), but before signing with them Ray decides to get married with the lovely Della Bea (Kerry Washington). This is when Ray becomes a success and begins his love affairs with Mary Ann Fisher (Aunjanue Ellis) and Margie Hendricks (Regina King). The movie focuses on his career from the late fortys to the mid 60`s when Ray finally is able to end his battle with drugs and continue successfully making music for 40 more years.

I already mentioned Foxx`s great performance, but Regina King and Kerry Washington also give strong performances as secondary characters. The story works really well focusing on Ray`s achievement in the music industry showing he was not only a great musician, but a talented businessman as well. The film doesn`t portray Ray as a saint and isn`t afraid of pointing out his weaknesses as well. There are several memorable scenes in the movie that doesn`t drag at all beside the fact that it is two and a half hours long. There are just so many rich details that couldn`t be left out of Ray´s life. Some of the memorable scenes were when Ray defied racial discrimination in Georgia when the theater he was going to perform for wanted to segregate the audience and only open for white folks, the scene where he is recovering in the hospital from addiction and has a vision of his mother and brother, and the scene where Ray has to perform for twenty more minutes to honor a contract and comes up with the song ¨What`d I say¨, which truly prove his musical genius. This is one of the best biopics ever made and I highly recommend it.

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