Thursday, September 13, 2012

46/50x2: Ray

Ray Charles was obviously a talented musician, but there aren't too many of his songs that really jumped out at me. I am sure I like a few of them, but I was never a huge fan of his music.

But, the same can pretty much be said of Johnny Cash before I watched Walk the Line and I definitely came away from that movie enjoying more of Cash's music.

So, Ray is a biopic about the life of Ray Charles (Jamie Foxx). We learn through flashbacks in the film that Ray wasn't born blind, and that he had a brother. While playing one afternoon in a very poor neighborhood, Ray's brother slipped and fell into his mother's laundry bucket and, while Ray watched, he couldn't get out and ended up drowning.

Not long after Ray developed some sort of eye disease which slowly ate away his sight. Soon, he was completely blind and his mother stayed away from helping him as he started to develop a reliance on his other senses - which would help him later in life.

Before his brother's death, Ray snuck into a local store where a man was playing the piano in the back - the man notices Ray watching him and soon begins to show him how to play the piano - which would obviously become a trademark for him.

The rest of the film shows his rise - fall - and eventual rise again to one of the best musicians in the world of music, especially incorporating gospel into his music.

The story was definitely interesting. As I had not really been a huge fan of Charles' music, I was not really aware of his life story.

The few things I did know about Charles before watching this film: his performance of American the Beautiful, him being in The Blues Brothers, and his Diet Pepsi commercials (You Got the Right One, Baby!).

Well, Charles fell in love with a young women named Della Bea (Kerry Washington), with whom he married and he had a couple of kids with. But, he also had a bit of a side relationship with Margie Hendricks (Regina King), who he also had a child with.

Wanting to be one of the guys, and not just he blind piano player, Ray also joined a couple of his band mates before he set out on his own and started using drugs. Something that he continued to do for years, and something that his wife found out about. He, of course, felt he wasn't addicted - but eventually he went down hill fast and went to rehab, which was the start of his resurgence.

One thing is for sure, this movie had a ton of talented actors playing some great parts. The one that obviously sticks out the most is Foxx's portrayal of Charles. He really committed to the role and pretty much became Ray Charles through the entire film.

Washington was very good as his wife and King also stood out as his mistress. I always enjoy seeing David Krumholtz in films, and he does another bang up job here. Two others that I thought were excellent were Curtis Armstrong and Richard Schiff - who played record producers that first began to produce Charles on his own and may be the ones responsible for him finding his sound.

A great biopic that really helped me learn more about Charles' life and struggles - and how he became such a talented musician. Not gonna run out and grab his music still, though. I enjoyed the film, but it didn't grab me as much as Walk the Line, if I were going to compare it to something.


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