Ray

"OK"

Ray Review


At the center of any good biographical feature film is a great performance, like Jamie Foxx's body-and-soul channeling of soul music's original ivory-twinkling innovator Ray Charles in "Ray." But a great performance does not make a biopic great. To rise above the kind of "true stories" that are the fodder of several assembly-line TV movies every year, a biopic needs to be like Ray Charles -- departing from formula and daring to be different.

Director Taylor Hackford (who once helmed the Chuck Berry concert film "Hail! Hail! Rock'n'Roll") doesn't manage that in "Ray," a film that feels more like a two-and-a-half-hour highlights reel from Charles' life. But as a primer on that man's life (musical brilliance, adultery, addiction, and lip service to lyrical controversy and segregation struggles) -- and for a film with a prefabricated story arc and little detail (Charles fathered 12 kids, only three or four of which are even mentioned in the film) -- "Ray" could be a lot worse.

At the very least it has a passionately devoted, dead-on lead actor -- Foxx not only nails the blind soul king's swaying jitterbug body language, but also seems to capture his very essence as a man and musician -- and a whole lot of fantastic, toe-tapping, heart-pumping R&B.

From exploited nightclub piano player to recording artist to worldwide sensation, the picture's plot progresses predictably and often too easily (a record-label producer literally comes knocking on the door of Charles' run-down Harlem flat). It's also plied with generic dialogue like, "Ray, I gotta tell ya, we think you're on to something really big" -- something his producer says when the singer-songwriter's unmistakable style emerges, instantaneously and fully formed, during a single early rehearsal scene while the guys in the sound booth nod enthusiastically and shake hands with each other.

Hackford's only attempts at novelty are really just thinly disguised emotional cheats -- bleached-out flashbacks to Charles' dirt-po'-and-going-blind rural childhood, which are inserted rather deliberately whenever the famous, grown-up Charles does something unsympathetic, like shooting heroin, cheating on his wife (wonderful Kerry Washington is the very portrait of feminine emotional strength in the role), or missing his son's Little League game (the stock Hollywood indicator of absentee fatherhood).

But at least "Ray" doesn't gloss over such egotistical shortcomings.

As for the film's shortcomings, Foxx goes a long way toward making up for those by completely disappearing into his role, playing his own piano parts (the singing is mostly the real Charles' voice), becoming deeply imbued with his character's infectious music and stage presence -- and doing it all with his eyes closed (like Charles), which is the acting equivalent of boxing with one arm tied behind your back.

Foxx cannot single-handedly turn "Ray" into a memorable movie, but he does save the film from its own overlong mediocrity.



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: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 160 Rotten: 38

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

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.