The United States just elected a president. And in a different contest, it appears that Hollywood has already elected this year's Academy Award-winner for Best Actor, even though the awards are still a few months away.
In director Taylor Hackford's Ray, Jamie Foxx's performance as Ray Charles is so impressive that almost every film critic that has seen it is talking about his Oscar chances. Playing the singer/songwriter from his early gigs in the Seattle jazz club scene and on through his meteoric rise to fame and several impressive reinventions, Foxx captures the charm, mannerisms, stage presence, strengths, and weaknesses of the man. He's supported by an impressive cast, including Kerri Washington (She Hate Me) in an affecting turn as his wife Della Bea; Curtis Armstrong (Better Off Dead) and Richard Schiff (TV's The West Wing) as his managers at Atlantic Records; Clifton Powell (Woman, Thou Art Loosed) as Jeff Brown, who keeps the band in line; and Regina King (Daddy Day Care, Enemy of the State) as Margie Hendricks, with whom Charles' has an extramarital affair.
Ray is worth seeing, not just for Foxx and the cast, but for the musical performances, the cinematography (by The Pianist's Pawel Edelman), and the sensitive portrait of an artist as a conflicted composer. Like Milos Forman's Amadeus, Ray reminds us that talent and genius have little if anything to do with wisdom. We come away from the film dazzled by the show, grateful for Charles' gift, and sobered by the consequences of reckless behavior.
And yet, while Ray reveals the genius of the artist and much about his personality, Hackford also conceals a great deal: including the story of Ray Charles' first wife, Eileen Williams, with whom he had a child, and stories ...1
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