The Fantastic Mr Foxx

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 20, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Fantastic Mr Foxx


Byline: DEREK MALCOLM

Ray

Cert 15,

152 mins ***

RAY CHARLES became a legend long before he died. But legends are difficult to encompass in film - there's either too much to say about their long and often difficult careers, or too little you can possibly discover about the roots of musical genius.

Taylor Hackford's film is indeed long, yet leaves Ray's 50-year-old career halfway through, at the point where the State of Georgia issued a formal apology for banning the singer because he had refused to play to segregated audiences, and declared Georgia On My Mind the official state song. And it still doesn't explain quite what made the man so great.

Although the songs are sung by Charles, the film relies principally on the performance of Jamie Foxx as Charles - a portrait of a blind and complicated man that has the detail of brilliant mimicry and the strength to persuade us that it is more than mere impersonation.

We've seen it all before: Charles's triumph over a dirtpoor beginning, over the racial discrimination of the South, and over heroin addiction. All this is laid out before us with honesty, as is Charles's skill as a businessman which, despite a chaotic existence on the road, came to his aid time and again.

But without Foxx's performance, the film simply wouldn't work. It is too liable to push for spurious psychological insights, and doesn't make you understand what Charles himself said: that "Soul is a way of life, but it is always the hard way".

Other performances, though not as notable as Foxx's, help carry the film. …

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