Movie Review by Neils Hesse
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Harry Lennix
Director: Taylor Hackford
‘Georgia On My Mind!’ or maybe ‘Hit The Road Jack!’, one of these two lines should sound familiar because they are both lifted from two world famous songs spanning many years that were both written and sung by the legendary soul maestro Ray Charles.
Jamie Foxx takes up the challenge and dons the famous dark sunglasses to play Ray Charles in this biopic. The movie takes us through Ray’s early years as a young boy when he starts to learn to play the piano, tragically loses his younger brother and starts to go blind all with the love and support of his mother. It then goes further to show his meteoric rise as a musician, his marriage to his life long love Della Bea as portrayed by Kerry Washington, his shocking addiction to heroin and his several infidelities.
Biopics are very hard to get right and through the years we have been exposed to many bad ones but I am very happy to say that this one is fantastic or dare I say perfect. The central performance by Jamie Foxx is goose bump inducing and the physical things like the walk, talk are all spot on. A huge bonus is also the fact that like the late Ray Charles, Jamie Foxx has been playing the piano since he was three and is actually a classically trained pianist besides being a stand up comedian – an obviously exceptionally gifted actor. Jamie manages to capture the soul of the man showing his evident sense of humour, drive for perfection and his struggle with facing up to the tragic death of his younger brother. The scenes where he freezes up on remembering his brother’s death and also where he starts having problems with his wife and literally begs her to believe in him are powerfully handled by Jamie Foxx. If ever an actor deserved the top award for a performance then this is it.
Sharon Warren stands out with a heartbreakingly powerful performance as Ray’s mother particularly in the scenes where the young Ray falls down and cries out to her for help when he is almost completely blind but she forces herself to ignore him as she wants him to learn to use his ears as his eyes. This is an emotionally charged scene that Warren handles with tremendous raw emotion that should touch even the most cynical viewer. The rest of the supporting cast all give exceptional performances as well.
Direction from Taylor Hackford is nothing short of brilliant even though he chooses to switch the narrative between Ray’s childhood to his adult life as a successful musician thus opening it up to possible confusion, but he manages to pull it off. The tone of the 60s and 70s in conjunction with the powerful original recordings by Ray Charles himself are all expertly combined to give the movie plenty of soul.
This is definitely not to be missed, a truly inspiring celebration of a genius and talented musician who despite his impoverished background had plenty of love and support from his mother, which combined with sheer tenacity and determination enabled him to fulfil his dreams.