Behind and deeper into the music
Some musicians live life so large, you can’t quite get enough.That’s the case with Ray Charles. At two and a half hours, “Ray,” a movie portraying the musician’s approximately first 34 years, runs long, but I’d buy a ticket to watch the next 40 years of his life in a heartbeat.
Though Charles’ problems are nothing new in the music business – drugs, extramarital affairs, shifty business deals – his presence captivates audiences.Jaime Foxx embodies Charles with exuberance and dignity – not always an easy combination to pull off. Foxx’s own piano playing blends with Charles’ original vocals, as if Foxx channeled the great musician.And as a credit to Charles, who contributed to the film until his death from liver failure in June, the depiction of his drug use, loneliness and affairs remain honest; the film refrains from overly emotional, preachy, glossed-over or hard-core confessionals and instead simply lets the story unfold.”Ray” opens with his mother telling him to never be a cripple and carries the symbolism of those words nicely throughout the movie.
Then it moves ahead to Charles’ first gigs and subsequent betrayals.Flashbacks of Charles’ childhood, where I could speculate that a trauma may have contributed to his heroin addiction as well as his blindness, uncover deeper aspects of Charles’ personality, building a rhythm of tension and release as the story progresses.The music infuses the film with soul, and even if you’re not a Charles fan, chances are the story and the sound will hook you. Ultimately, “Ray” tells the story of a man with incredible passion and drive for music.
It’s the story of risking to find your own voice, even if it involves breaking the rules. Charles didn’t meet the devil at the crossroads and sell his soul, but he penned the “devil’s music” by writing sexually-charged lyrics to gospel melodies. Some would say that saves him a place in hell, but I’d say it earns him a coveted place on earth where his inspirational spirit plays on.You can find Kimberly Nicoletti groping around her house in the dark, wearing black, rhinestone-laden glasses, blasting the devil’s music and trying to channel Ray Charles’ genius.
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