Ray

"Good"

Ray Review


Every time former Booty Call-er Jamie Foxx rasps his voice, sways gracefully on a piano bench, or hugs his own torso in triumph, we lose the actor we've come to know completely. Left standing in his place is the late Ray Charles, staring back at us from behind those trademark sunglasses - and yes, we eventually learn why he wears them.

Foxx's tribute, solidified whenever he breaks into Charles' signature grin, goes beyond mimicry to find the soul of one of America's most gifted songwriters. You'll undoubtedly leave Ray talking about Foxx's career performance. The discussion may continue right up until Oscar night.

The rest of this competent biography from director Taylor Hackford (Proof of Life), though, doesn't live up to Foxx's unexpectedly stunning portrayal. Soulful, sorrowful, and relatively safe, Ray stalls for extended periods on the lowest points of a legend's life without finding balance and properly celebrating the highs. For a man who utilized so many musical keys, Charles' life story comes off as relatively one-note.

Hackford's pedigreed Behind the Music episode begins in 1949, when accomplished pianist Ray Charles (Foxx) arrives in Seattle to conquer the local jazz club scene. It doesn't take long for the leeches to latch on to Charles' soaring star. Simultaneously, Hackford stylishly cuts back to the artist's roots in rural Florida to fill in some of his narrative gaps. Blind since the age of 7, Charles adopts his mother Aretha's (Sharon Warren) fighting spirit and suffers severe emotional pain after his brother, George (Terrone Bell), drowns in a childhood accident. The memory haunts Ray throughout the film, and Hackford effectively uses water as a suspenseful device, but - in true Hackford fashion - goes back to that particular well one too many times.

Charles' undeniable talent eventually carries him to the top of the charts. He meets and marries Della Bea (Kerry Washington), a Texas singer who inadvertently helps Charles find his voice through the melding of gospel, blues, and country music. Ray continues its journey through Charles' early years at Atlantic Records, his reluctant fight to end Deep South segregation, and the standard temptations that plague all artists on the road.

When thing start getting interesting, Ray stops. Hackford takes an unhealthy interest in showcasing Charles' warts, and this incomplete biopic grows repetitive and flabby in its final act. Foxx's portrayal always keeps us riveted, and the assorted musical asides positively hop with flair. Ray becomes kinetic every time The Genius touches his piano keys.

But Hackford lingers on Charles' losing battle with drugs long after we've gotten the point, beating the man's substance abuse into the ground before unsuccessfully tying it together through an overly melodramatic rehabilitation. Tacked on title cards explain what Charles did for the next 40 years after kicking his habit. A better film might have showed us more. Hackford's Ray is a greatest hits compilation that's missing a few tunes. It lingers too long on the man's pitfalls and shortchanges his contributions to society that came later in life. This may be a piece of music history, but it will sound sweetest to those already indebted to Charles and the genre he ruled for decades.

The DVD is a mixed bag, but primarily I can tell you there's no reason to watch the extended cut (which can be played from the same disc as the theatrical cut), with its extra half hour of footage. Primarily this means more heroin and more women, and that's about it. You might also be inclined to check out Taylor Hackford's commentary, or the mammoth second disc of extras, including the uncut performances in the film, and a couple of featurettes about the making of the movie.

Foxx loving Foxx.



Ray

Facts and Figures

Run time: 152 mins

In Theaters: Friday 29th October 2004

Box Office USA: $75.2M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 160 Rotten: 38

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

Advertisement
The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.