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Film does Charles' life justice, uses music to maintain pace

Nov. 5, 2004

Foxx's performance worthy of Oscar

as piano legend

By DREW WILLIAMSON, sports writer

Jamie Foxx has been getting all kinds of positive publicity regarding his role in the movie Ray, and he deserves every bit of it.

In what should instantly be considered an Oscar-worthy performance, Foxx perfectly and convincingly embodies the flamboyant persona of the late, great Ray Charles. Director Taylor Hackford's film is tremendous in itself, but Foxx steals the show. The movie tells the story of Charles, the legendary blind musician, and his emergence from a handicapped young boy to one of the most famous R&B musicians in the world.

Charles' journey starts in Seattle where he first starts playing piano and performing in public. Immediately, music executives being to see the star potential Charles has and he's forced to learn the ropes of show business. Those surrounding Charles in the early stages of his career try to take advantage of him due to his handicap, but he is able to learn from this struggle and this becomes one of the driving forces behind him evolving into the musical genius he will always be.

The film quickly transitions through the '50s and '60s as Charles soars up the top of almost all pop music charts. Early on in the story, the audience is allowed into Charles' flirtatious personality as he falls in love with a gospel singer from Houston and marries her in the early stages of his fame.

While out on the road, Charles struggles with being faithful to his wife and children and becomes addicted to heroin. His addiction to drugs, along with his failure to let go of his horrible past are two of things that Charles struggles with and ultimately has to face head on.

The most enjoyable part of the movie, aside from the brilliant performance by Foxx, is the music. Having been born in the '80s, I was never fully introduced to the wide repertoire of music that Charles created.

The entire movie is paced by such famous tracks such as, "You Don't Know Me," "Hit the Road Jack," "Unchain My Heart" and my personal favorite, "Georgia."

If you are a lover of Charles' music this movie is a definite must see and it remains worthy even if you are unfamiliar with his music. Every American should hear a sample of Charles' music and this movie is a perfect way to do so.

Although Ray is longer than the average film, the music breaks up the plot perfectly, preventing any scenes to drag along with dialogue. However, this doesn't stop the story from evoking emotion, for instance, the gripping scene between Charles and his mother after he realizes he has broken a promise he made to her many years ago.

What makes Foxx's performance even better is his ability to become the musician. Foxx is not an actor playing a pianist; he's an experienced pianist. If there ever was a role perfect for someone, it was the role of Ray Charles for Jamie Foxx.

If Foxx does not, at least, receive a nomination for an Academy Award, it would be a travesty; this is hands down one of the best performances I have seen in a few years, and one of the few must-see movies out there.