Foxx Is Pitch Perfect

The actor breathes life into a formulaic Ray.

Among the intriguing details of Ray's life and career are the revelation that the deathless "What'd I Say" came into being as an set-filler improvised on the bandstand one night, that Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun (Curtis Armstrong), a gnome in glasses, simply knocked on his door in New York, contract in hand. After one set of Raelettes walked out of a recording studio in a huff, the unbothered Ray simply sang all the backup parts himself. He was a pioneer in civil-rights activism among musicians, we learn, and we are told that it was the fine saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman who introduced Charles to heroin, albeit at Ray's own urging. Fascinating stuff, all of it.

Brother, brother: Jamie Foxx channels Ray Charles 
in Ray.
Brother, brother: Jamie Foxx channels Ray Charles in Ray.

In the end, we don't get quite the fluent, highly personal film Ray Charles deserves, because Hackford is a journeyman, not an innovator. What we do get is an electrifying, completely heartfelt performance worthy of the singer's genius and his hunger for self-determination. After watching this, we can't stop loving you, Jamie Foxx.

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