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Film Review: Ray

Although significant and unique in each one’s own right, not every individual can be considered a legend. Legendary people are known to grip adoring mass attention; they just seem to have…something. In the world of music, legends have been known, amongst other things, to have that ability to appeal to a crowd and still touch the individual, the ability to etch a chorus into memory across generations for generations: one cannot help swaying to Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”, getting dizzy over Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon” or…clicking one’s fingers to Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road Jack”.

Ray, a movie on the legendary life of Ray Charles (1930-2004)1, hit the movie theaters late last year. Ray Charles transcended the boundaries between different types of music in creating his own distinctive sound. Jazz, Country, and Western music are known to have embraced a larger audience, not only in the USA, but the world at large, because of his work. He was also seen as influential in the evolution of Rock & Roll2. Played, in adult form, by Jamie Foxx, Ray Charles is followed in this film, from his rural Florida childhood, when he went blind, to the platform of fame in his latter years. Throughout the film, we watch Ray Charles move through pointers of an eventful life: the death of his little brother and mother, blindness, Braille school at a tender age, getting gigs, bad people, good people, all sorts of schemers in between, racism, family pressures, local travel, foreign travel, record deals, fame, drugs, betrayals…to produce hit wonders like…”Mess Around”.

Ray is a moving story that will fill you with inspiration from start to finish. Directed by Taylor Hackford, the biography steers away from being tagged as a mere narration through the use of relevant, poignant flashbacks. As far as the cast goes, Jamie Foxx is very convincing in his portrayal of the pianist that we have come to know from the stage. The actor’s performance is balanced by those of three female characters, each endowed with a special strength: determined mother, Aretha Robinson (Sharen Warren); calm wife, Della Bea Charles (Kerry Washington); and lively backup singer, Margie Hendrix (Regina King).

In a time when our modern music icons appear and disappear like mirages, it is heartening to see that we still remember some of the people who played a very big role in influencing music as we know it. After opening quietly last year, Ray looks set to strike quite a chord this year.

1Date information from artist web-site: www.raycharles.com
2Summary based on information provided on www.imdb.com

February 28, 2005
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