Jamie Foxx is “Ray.” The highs and lows of an acclaimed career are brought to life by the actor, who embodies Ray Charles, the “Inventor of Soul,” in every way-from the itch of a heroin junkie to the cool, deep growl of his voice. He makes it “do what it do baby.”The movie is a reflection on the late musician, who died earlier this year, and the extraordinary life he led despite his blindness. The movie opens with Ray?s fingers dancing across the ivory keys, the piano reflected in the gaze of his famous sunglasses. They reflect his heart and soul as the music brings out the life in the man.
Ray Charles Robinson is raised by his strong, dedicated mother, played by newcomer Sharon Warren, who insists on raising her two boys with a sense of pride and tells them that no one should ever take advantage of them. She fights for what she believes in and advocates that her sons do the same.
The movie follows Ray throughout his career, dipping into flashbacks of his childhood. Ray is haunted by the darkest memory of his past, when his little brother dies under his watchful eye. His mother, obviously grief stricken, is then told of the news that her first born is going blind. She is heartbroken, but remains strong, and when Ray falls, he is taught that he must also pick himself back up–a theme that the movie follows throughout.
Ray leads a life in the darkness, behind sunglasses that mirror the only light he can see–his music. It brings him to places no one had ever expected that he would go. Often, at the beginning stages of his career, he was taken advantage of, treated as if he were a fool. Along the path of finding himself a home in the music business, he comes across a familiar name, Quincy Jones (Larenz Tate), and meets his future wife, Della Bea (Kerry Washington).
Eventually, Ray gains the respect of those in the music business and soars past expectations. He keeps his mother?s words with him. Ray is the first celebrity not to play at a segregated concert hall, declaring that it wasn?t right, walking away with a lawsuit on his hands from breaking a contract by sticking with his morals.
When he is threatened that he will never be able to play in Georgia again, he shrugs it off. In 1979, Ray Charles was given a public apology and invited back, to play whenever he liked, by the state of Georgia, in a moment that was one of his proudest. “Ray,” directed by Taylor Hackford, makes no apologies.
Ray turns to women and drugs as his career flies, as his records become more controversial due to a mix of gospel and “sex” related material, and also become number one hits, and he shrugs at the response it gets. His wife is obviously horrified to find her husband is doing such things, but he won?t change–he is who he is and does what he does.
Ray is in control of his own destiny, and through the scrutiny of a wife who wants her husband to be clean, to be the man she married, through the watchful eyes of the press and public, Ray plays his music and plays his heart to its fullest. Jamie Foxx is headed for the Oscars with this performance. He is Ray, from every movement, from every word.
The supporting cast, including Regina King as a scornful mistress, plays her part well, but in a great movie such as this, the leading man shines with a brightness that only Jamie Foxx could have pulled off, with the precision of Ray Charles that is uncanny. The music in the movie, the recordings of Ray Charles, provide a soundtrack to a life that went beyond expectations it brought a man whose heart was full of love and music, and who was eager to share that with the world lucky for us.