Ray Charles was a man who took the limits of his skin color that kept him down at the time along with his disability and used it to his advantage with his pure musical genius, his ability to reach beyond the musical genre and discover all sorts of facets of music experimenting. The film directed by Taylor Hackford is a bittersweet inspiring tale of Ray Charles’ life, love, and struggle with drug abuse. Charles played by Jamie Foxx in an amazing performance, is portrayed with the humanity and flaws that give this film the reality it needs and never pulls back. Charles himself picked Foxx after a rigorous test of piano skills and approved him personally, and the film manages to convey all of Foxx’ skill in its entirety.
Foxx embodies Charles with all his mannerisms, and idiosyncrasies and gives a truly good. The film itself glosses over the mild details but focuses on more of the moments of Ray’s life which had more impact that led to his transformation of a musician and of the man he eventually became as he got older, and all of it is given here from his experiments in other music to his willingness to take control, and setting the stage for many other singers of his kind. The movie has a strong feminine theme that’s present throughout the story. The real soul of the film lies within the women in Ray’s life, all of which are played with great performances by some talented actresses. Sharon Warren is excellent as Ray’s tough and strict mother who teaches her son to face his disability and survive. She’s powerful in her performance and sets the stage for many of Ray’s strengths with his disability.
Another one of the strong performances that went un-credited was the performance from Kerry Washington who plays Charles’ first wife. She often becomes the moral center of his life that he has struggles keeping in tact throughout his life, but he can’t help being human. She’s a devoted center in Charles’ life despite his infidelity to her and obvious infidelity at that, and often times becomes the reasons his infidelity fails because of his undying devotion to her. The best aspect of the film though is the presentation of Regina King’s talents in her excellent performance as Ray’s lover and long time back up singer Margie Hendricks. “Ray” is good — but not great, watchable, but nothing to really get into a fit over. It’s a good film, but hardly what I’d consider the standard for a masterpiece. Basically, what really griped me about the film in particular and kept me focusing on the positives was the fact that this was just so manipulative with the audiences emotions.
First in its story primarily and the way it sets it all up basically negating the true experience of what emerged through Charles’ life. But instead the screenwriters tend to focus on the dramatic Hollywoodized aspects of the story with the death of Charles brother, and his often weird flashes in which he envisions he’s in water reaching for his brother who tragically drowned in a bathtub. Most of everything in this film didn’t feel genuine, it just felt like it was reaching for the audience to cry and to get us to sympathize without any real sentiment behind it. The touches that were obviously put in by Hollywood for dramatic effect often never worked. It’s alluded the death of Charles’ brother added to his blindness, his mom’s face constantly flashing in his mind to never forget his roots while he comes near selling out, and so on. Ultimately, I was sorely disappointed. I wanted excellent, but it’s only mediocre.