- Taylor Hackford
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Tuesday, February 22, 2005
The movie focuses on the first few decades of Charles’ career, at first an iron-willed blind young man with artistic aspirations, later a celebrity in all the extent of the term, with problems common to people of the kind. It’s always worthwhile to watch this biopic when it shows flashbacks of Ray’s childhood, with his wise mother (Sharon Warren) helping him develop enough abilities to become self-sufficient in a world of darkness, and also telling him that he’s as good as any man and can’t be made a cripple by others; all this is contrasted by every step of his career, as he fought against abuse from every early contractor he had, and later found his life out of control due to heroin abuse and his addiction to beautiful women.
I must say I didn’t love this movie. At first I thought it was because I’ve never been a fan of Ray Charles’ music, but later I knew this to be false, because I ended up loving his songs and wanting to hear more of them, yet I wasn’t convinced by the movie. I realized I just found it overlong, at times dragging too hard throughout entire years of story, and becoming towards the end too tiresome and unpleasant. This is made up by the first half though, where we become just too enamored of Foxx’s eye-popping performance, and also the man he portrays. There’s enough comedy and music to make for an entertaining ride, that is, before it becomes a difficult trip to keep up with.
Director Hackford did a good job overall though. He gave the film an amazing look that suits every phase of Ray’s career, and makes the passing of the years exhilarating when it comes to the pianoman’s musical success. It also paints a good picture of the musical stage of different decades, and how it evolved little by little. The visual style and some graphical sequences help a damn lot, as does this genius’ music throughout. The biggest flaw however is an imaginary scene where Ray goes back to his mama and dead brother and reconciles with them… Director Hackford gave Ray eyes and reminded us all that we’re actually watching Jamie Foxx, not Ray Charles.
But not to even dare discredit the actor, let’s say his casting in the lead is unspeakably brilliant. I just don’t know how it happened, but he’s heaven-sent, he is Ray Charles, and every bit of his performance, his walking, his movement, his voice, his smile, are Charles’. He even did some of the singing! I didn’t expect such a stunning portrayal even after hearing all the raves about the performance, and I was mesmerized by it. Aside from the scene I mentioned in the prior paragraph, I never once felt I was watching Foxx. Good for Jamie! He obviously worked incredibly hard to pull it off, but he’s the main reason why the film is worth watching.
Accompanying this man are Kerry Washington as his wife, Aunjanue Ellis as his “road wife” and chorus girl, Regina King as her successor, Clifton Powell as his long-time manager with whom Charles eventually ended his relationship unfairly, Curtis Armstrong and Richard Schiff as Ray’s real discoverers, and many more. Everyone does a good job.
A nice-looking, better-sounding biopic with an excellent leading performance and some pretty good things to offer all around, Ray is not a waste of time… but not the best way to spend it either.
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