I watched the Ray Charles biopic Ray the other night. It’s basically a good film with an incredible performance by Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles but…I was kind of bored. Not that Ray Charles isn’t interesting or the music not great, it’s just, well, this is the same story I’ve seen over and over again in flicks about great musicians.
A year ago I saw Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash story. It was the same basic movie: poor boy learns to make music, works hard, gets a break, finds a good woman, gets famous, gets addicted to drugs, finds other women, becomes a mega-star, life starts falling apart, gets cleaned up and the movie ends. Oh yeah, and there are lots of tunes.
This is no accident of course; there is a predictable path many musicians, and other stars in our society, take. It’s sad but very familiar. Since the story is always basically the same, these movies make it on the presentation of the music, something done well in both Ray and Walk the Line but done poorly in other similar films like The Doors.
I suspect we will be seeing even more of these movies as many of the legends of the last half of the twentieth century die off. In the end they aren’t about the people, but about the music.