A sharecropper's son in Northern Florida, Ray Charles Robinson lost his eyesight before he became a teenager. After graduating from a conservatory music school for the blind in Saint Augustine, Ray conned his way to a bus ticket to Seattle. After befriending a street musician named Quincy Jones (Larenz Tate), Ray joined a Nat King Cole Tribute band. Learning from Oberon (Warrick Davis) that he is being cheated, Ray left the band and hit the road. From 1948 to 1964, Ray Charles created music that fused the roots of bluegrass, blues, boogie woogie and gospel. Ray married Della Bea (Kerry Washington), raised children and lived the American Dream. Yet the ghosts of his troubled youth haunted Ray Charles and the musician sought relief through heroin.
Not that "Ray" is a diary of a drug addict. This motion picture soars when Ray Charles and his studio crew create songs. From moments of pure pain, comes the lively tune "Hit the Road, Jack!" After changing record labels, Ray Charles produced "Georgia," which went on to become the state song. When a nightclub performance ended too soon, Ray Charles improvised the crowd favorite, "What I'd Say?"
From the television show, "In Living Color," Jamie Foxx has come a long way since wearing a dress with vaseline covered lips as ugly Wanda. Ugly Wanda is forgotten with this Oscar caliber performance. Foxx actually becomes Ray Charles, crossing the reality perception that all actors strive for their entire career. Sharon Warren portrays Ray Charles' mother Aretha during flashback sequences. Though her part is small, the actress reveals a full range of emotion, from raging grief to a quiet joy as she realizes that her handicapped son will persevere. Warren is likely to be Oscar nominated for best supporting actress for realistically portraying a positive influence. Regina King portrays the tragic Margie Hendricks, a memorable vocalist from two of Ray Charles' signature tunes.
"Ray" is a summation of Ray Charles Robinson's career. This iconic musician was involved with the production of the film before he died in June 2004. Director Taylor Hackford has created a soulful biography that is part musical celebration and part psychological detective story. While the narrative becomes a bit clunky at times, "Ray" is still an inspiring motion picture that could only happen in America.