I always found Jamie Foxx a rather unusual A-lister. At first sight he looks like he should have a Wayans-career. I found his roles in serious movies good but not ground-breaking. Not even his Oscar-winning role in Collateral did it for me, I found that one to be a movie where Tom cruise shines the most. But to be honest: his role in Ray is one that did deserve the Academy Award as well as a string of others.
Ray is about legendary musician Ray Charles and deals with his youth up to the moment when he kicked his heroin addiction in 1966. One of two addictions he had, the other being women.
Witnessing his little brother die as a child as he stood in shock gave him a lifelong feeling of guilt. This burden led him to trying out heroin to ease the pain.
The movie shows us how a young Charles goes blind and has to learn how to stand on his own feet in a world still filled with racism. His first steps into becoming a musician by joining a local band are met with racist remarks. When we see him later in the bus all the black people are in the back. There’s even a line with the word “colored” dividing the bus in two parts making sure everybody knows there place. As with other famous black artists from that time, like Sammy Davis Jr., Ray is living in a world where he gets accepted with ease by white people but is still bumping into a racist environment.
Because of Ray never being a real human rights activist, the movie focuses more on his private life. His relationship with Della Beatrice Howard, his relationships with several other women, his addiction to heroin and his rise in the music-business which went rather smoothly I must say. His talent is easily recognized and even the record company executives seem to be genuine guys who are not only producing Charles’ music but also seem to be his friends.
The power in the movie lies in the performances. Jamie Foxx is Ray Charles with all the mannerisms and the likeness is unbelievable. Only in a scene at the end of the movie where we see Foxx without the glasses or his eyes closed is where we see Jamie Foxx and not Ray Charles. His wife played by Kerry Washington stays more in the background and has the task to be the stay-at-home-wife. Providing most of the emotional sparks is Regina King as Margie Hendricks who is one of the Raelettes, a group of background singers to Ray. She gets involved with him more than any other Raelette or other lover before her and eventually becomes the mistress who wants to upgrade herself to the position of wife. She gets the most out of her part and actually seems to be partly responsible for the hit-song “Hit the road Jack” which apparently was developed during ahead argument between the two in a slouchy hotel-room. He on heroin, she on alcohol. They made a nice couple.
Ray is a good movie which takes us back to an America where the segregation was still fully in progress and shows us the bumpy rise of Ray Charles. The movie carefully recreates the settings from that era and is the sole reason in my opinion why Jamie Foxx should be in possession of an Oscar.