Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Francis' Favorites: #5 - Ray

I remember seeing Ray on a Friday night after work, a late show at the Foothills Loew's here in Tucson. I remember how deep, emotional and musical it was, and how Jamie Foxx (who would win an Oscar for his performance) disappeared into the role of Ray Charles so completely. As I pointed out in my original 2004 review, the film deserved better treatment from the beginning, having taken years to get made because of financing difficulties.

A look at the films
that have left a mark on my life.

I'm now counting down the
films that left the biggest marks.
But when it did get made, and with Charles' blessing and cooperation, it turned out to be a highly musical, highly watchable breeze through this legend's life and times. It didn't gloss over the warts: his drug use and his womanizing. I also enjoyed -- even if the Arizona Daily Star reviewer didn't -- listening in on Charles' business savvy which had him owning his own master recordings and controlling his sound, mastering the piano and overcoming blindness. That control enabled him to glide effortlessly into country from soul and R&B. The only thing that wore on me was the film's surrealistic flashbacks to the death of Charles' brother as they were growing up in Georgia.

As the late, great Roger Ebert pointed out, Ray would be watchable alone for just the music and how Jaime Foxx nails Ray Charles' mannerisms and voice, even though he's mouthing Charles' original recordings on the soundtrack. It's so much more than that, however, and it's an inspirational film for me because of its soulful journey -- on more than one level.

At one point in the film, Charles says: "When I walk out that door, I walk out alone in the dark."

Your servant has felt that darkness, more times than I would like to remember. Perhaps that's why Ray has ended up on my list of five favorites.

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