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Ray (DVD) Review
Nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Ray is a captivating and inspiring true story about a man beloved by millions around the world. Based on the life and times of Ray Charles Robinson, the film follows the popular singer's life from the earliest days of his youth to the day of his triumph over a heroin addiction. Featuring a soundtrack second to none in the history of cinema, Ray is the total package in terms of a blockbuster film - great characters blended together with an inspirational personal journey and an unforgettable musical score. Actor Jamie Foxx gives an Oscar Award winning performance so lifelike that it's difficult to distinguish his character from the real Ray Charles. In short, Ray is a film that appeals to a wide audience and one that literally transports its viewers into another era.
Jamie Foxx plays the role of Ray Charles Robinson, a black youth growing up in Florida during the Great Depression. Forced to deal with the tragedy of his kid brother's death, and the loss of his own vision at a young age, Ray nevertheless triumphs over his disability when his mother refuses to let him feel sorry for himself. Learning to play the piano from a neighborhood musician, Ray strikes out on his own in the late-1940s for gig in Seattle.
Ray's amazing talents are instantly recognized, and he's never short of a gig. However, while traveling on the road with several jazz bands, Ray begins using drugs, and he eventually becomes addicted to heroin. When Atlantic Records buys Ray's contract, Ray's career accelerates, culminating in several number one hits. Eventually, Ray strikes a deal with NBC worth more than any other performer of his day, and he and his wife Bea buy a luxurious Beverly Hills home with the world spread out before them.
But things aren't as perfect as they seem. Ray's infidelities have taken a toll on his marriage, and his drug addiction threatens to ruin his family, his relationship with his children, and his dealings with longtime friends. Having already accomplished more than most men, Ray Charles must now face the greatest challenge of his life - overcoming his heroin addiction and living a clean life.
Jamie Foxx is simply astounding in his portrayal of the larger than life figure Ray Charles, and his effort was more than acknowledged by his Academy Award victory and widespread critical acclaim. But less attention is given to the outstanding supporting cast that surrounds Foxx. The role of the young Ray Robinson's mother, Aretha, is played by Sharon Warren with such passion that her character leaps off the screen and into one's memory as the second most influential character of the film. Aretha's dedication to her son's future and her demanding, yet loving, attitude toward his self-sufficiency are admirable qualities. And the mother's influence on Ray is apparent in his drive not to be treated by the world as a cripple.
Further adding to the allure of Ray are performances by Kerry Washington (Della Bea Robinson), Regina King (Margie Hendricks), and Clifton Powell (Jeff Brown). Through the interaction of each character, the viewer sees a reflection of the passion and driving life forces that moved Ray Charles toward his musical destiny. Ultimately, Ray is a film about relationships and dreams. The astounding heights of success achieved by a blind man (and a black man in a segregated society) leave the impression that any individual can achieve any feat to which he puts his mind. This is the true gift of Ray, a feel-good film with a happy ending about a man who showed the world that anything is possible. And that's why Ray is an absolute must-see movie.
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