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with Jesus

Critics have generally raved about this film, and why not? Jamie Foxx's portrayal of one of the world's greatest singers is marvelous (the soundtracks are Charles's originals). Born into grinding, rural poverty in Albany, Georgia, Charles's mother Aretha moved her family to Florida when he was an infant. By age 7 Charles was completely blind from glaucoma. This film tracks his life from then until 1966 or so when he finally beat a twenty-year heroin addiction. But I had several disappointments. By ending when Charles was only 36, this film neglects the entire last half of his life. His addiction to drugs and women (he fathered 12 children and was divorced twice), the powerful influence of his mother who taught him to avoid self-pity and to be his own person, and his guilt over his failure to save his little brother from a drowning accident when he was five, all figure more prominently than his musical genius. In his fifty-year career Charles performed 10,000 concerts, won 12 Grammys, and charted 85 singles. I wanted to learn more about how this genius fused Gospel, blues, country, jazz, and big band music into a raucous style all his own. Perhaps it is impossible for any film to capture a figure so much larger than life. Charles himself was involved in the making of this film, and at the end of the day, despite the feel of an unoriginal soap opera script (music, drugs, philandering, and racism), it is well worth seeing.

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