Sunday, November 21, 2004

Ray

"Ray" is about the life of the legendary singer/songwriter Ray Charles. He is a blind Afican-American whose music literally rocked the world with the fusion of classic R&B and Gospel.

The film is a celebration of his music and a loving tribute to his remarkable life that made him the Icon that he is now.

Ray was born to a poor single mother. As a young boy he witnessed a devastating loss that haunts him for many years. He losses his sight soon after and forever lived in the dark. He was sent by his mother to a school for the blind and taught him how to be strong to be able to survive on his own.

Before Ray lost his sight, he was introduced to the piano by a kind neighbor. This introduction lead him to love music and eventually gave him the freedom to become whoever he wants notwithstanding his physical disability.

When his mother died he moved to Seatle and met the young Quincy Jones and together they found an agent who booked Ray in shows accross the neighboring states. Soon, the phenomenal new sound of Ray Charles gets the attention of people from Atlantic Records and signed him up for a contract. The contract produced a string of hits and had all of America clamoring for Ray.

Watching Ray is like watching a great performer march to the stage, waltz through his routine in a deliberate tentative pace and slowly building up his act until he hits full crescendo. The audience, meanwhile, are held in breathless awe.

Jamie Foxx turns in a brilliant and outstanding performance that may in the surface appear to be just an imitation of Ray Charles but as the film gets along and the viewer is brought deeper and deeper into the psychology of his character, Foxx’s heart is revealed and all you see is Ray Charles.

The film attempts to give us as much detail about Ray’s life. In poignant and sometimes harrowing flashbacks, we are told of the demons he is battling inside that made him seek the comfort of heroin. He had a string of extra-marital affairs but he kept his loyalty to his wife.

Supporting performances from the dutiful wife to the agents, band members and mistresses were all very good. But particularly the performance of Regina King as the strong-willed mistress come off as the best specially the part where she was leaving Ray for good and Ray was on his piano composing a new track for his album. Their verbal fight ends up with the composition of the hit song “Hit the Road” and watching it unfold onscreen, one momentarily forgets that they are actually fighting but instead one thinks they are merely collaborating on the music.

The use of Ray’s music to highlight his career/life milestones was inspired and it was further use to greater advantage in the scene where Ray Charles was finally recognized by the state of Georgia after being banned during the height of the desegregation movement when he did not perform in a concert because black people are being restricted to a specific section in the hall. When his song Georgia on my Mind was adopted as the state song, I was misty-eyed and on my feet applauding Mr. Ray Charles, his music, his life and his achievements.

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