As soon as I heard that Jamie Foxx was ‘the chosen one’ to perform in, what for me was the most eagerly anticipated biopic this decade, I knew the film would be done justice. And it needed to, because let’s face it, the late Ray Charles is one of the most legendary jazz musicians that ever lived and it really would have been disrespectful to have tarnished the character that everyone knew and loved through mediocrity from both the cast and production.
Shortly before filming began, rumour has it that Ray Charles (who had been diagnosed with liver cancer the year prior) sat down with Jamie Foxx at two pianos and ‘challenged’ him. The musical masterpiece for the two hours that followed concluded with Ray’s blessing; “he can do it, he’s the one!”.
The film follows the structure of your standard biopic; tough childhood, has a natural talent, works up the ladder, goes off the rails and of course, the final redemption.
Being looked after by a single mother at a time when racial discrimination was rife, you could say that Ray’s early years were harder than most. At the age of 7 he witnessed the death of his younger brother who drowned in a washing bucket and shortly thereafter he started to lose his vision, becoming completely blind less than a year later. Appreciating the value of a decent education, Aretha (Ray’s mother) sent him away from home to a school for the blind. The tough love approach turned Ray into a hardened character at a young age – “Always remember your promise to me. Never let nobody or nothing turn you into no cripple”.
As you would expect from Mr.Foxx, the music is incredible – I am a great fan of jazz and sincerely enjoyed the excitement of the musical performances, reminiscent of many live performances from the great man himself. Of course, as you would expect, the warm smile, body language and mannerisms unique to Ray have all been captured perfectly – of course it helps that the two look very similar! But what really impressed are the off-stage or ‘quiet’ scenes where the depth of JF’s acting talents are truly revealed – undoubtedly contributing to him picking up Academy, BAFTA and Grammy awards for best male actor. It is always great when a truly good performance gets justifiably acknowledged.
The film focuses on overcoming struggles in life such as Ray’s well-known addiction to drugs for which he was arrested for and his problems with women. Even though the duration of the movie is longer than most at 250 minutes, the time passes quickly, which is always a good indication of satisfaction.
I really enjoyed the ending, it rounds off the film nicely; some thought it quite cheesy but I found it to be quite a tear jerker (although I didn’t cry, honest!).
Apparently, Ray was able to sit through the first edit of this film before his death – I wonder what he thought of it? I can only imagine that it was well received because Taylor Hackford has produced a top quality film here. For entertainment value this film is worth a watch, if you’re in anyway a fan of the legendary man himself or you have an appreciation for music of a similar era, then this film is a must!
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