If he had already been blind, he could not have blamed himself for the death and would not have carried the lifelong guilt that, the movie argues, contributed to his eventual drug addiction. Would he also then have not been driven to become the consummate artist that he was? Who can say? For that matter, what role did blindness play in his genius? Did it make him so alive to sound that he became a better musician? Certainly he was so attuned to the world around him that he never used a cane or a dog; for Charles blindness was more of an attribute than a handicap.
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Jamie Foxx suggests the complexities of Ray Charles in a great, exuberant performance. He doesn't do the singing -- that's all Ray Charles on the soundtrack -- but what would be the point? Ray Charles was deeply involved in the project for years, until his death in June, and the film had access to his recordings, so of course it should use them, because nobody else could sing like Ray Charles.
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What Foxx gets just right is the physical Ray Charles, and what an extrovert he was. Not for Ray the hesitant blind man of cliche feeling his way, afraid of the wrong step. In the movie and in life, he was adamantly present in body as well as spirit, filling a room, physically dominant, interlaced with other people. Yes, he was eccentric in his mannerisms, especially at the keyboard; I can imagine a performance in which Ray Charles would come across like a manic clown. But Foxx correctly interprets the musician's body language as a kind of choreography, in which he was conducting his music with himself, instead of with a baton. Foxx so accurately reflects my own images and memories of Charles that I abandoned thoughts of how much 'like' Charles he was and just accepted him as Charles, and got on with the story.
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The movie places Charles at the center of key movements in postwar music. After an early career in which he seemed to aspire to sound like Nat 'King' Cole, he loosened up, found himself, and discovered a fusion between the gospel music of his childhood and the rhythm & blues of his teen years and his first professional gigs. The result was, essentially, the invention of soul music, in early songs like 'I Got a Woman.'
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The movie shows him finding that sound in Seattle, his improbable destination after he leaves his native Georgia. Before and later, it returns for key scenes involving his mother Aretha (Sharon Warren), who taught him not to be intimidated by his blindness, to dream big, to demand the best for himself. She had no education and little money, but insisted that he attend the school for the blind, which set him on his way. He heads for Seattle after hearing about the club scene, but why there and not in New York, Kansas City, Chicago or New Orleans? Certainly his meeting with the Seattle teenager Quincy Jones was one of the crucial events in his life (as was his friendship with the dwarf emcee Oberon, played by Warwick Davis, who turns him on to pot).