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Overall Rating
3.98

Awesome: 26.62%
Worth A Look53.96%
Just Average: 12.23%
Pretty Crappy: 5.04%
Sucks: 2.16%

10 reviews, 79 user ratings


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Ray
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by Jay Seaver

"Does what one expects of a good biopic. Not much else, but does that well."
4 stars

Ray doesn't quite avoid the pitfall that destroys most biopics; it's quite willing to reduce a complicated life to a simple theme. In this case, that theme is Ray Charles's mother told him not to let anything make him a cripple, but he eventually had to overcome heroin addiction in order to make good on that. It's still an enjoyable movie, though, because around the life lesson we're expected to extract from the subject's life, there's a bunch of little details.

Little things like name-dropping Tom Dowd. Only a small group of music experts and what meager group of us saw Tom Dowd and the Language of Music would likely notice if they got the name of Atlantic's recording engineer wrong, but they get it right. Would that more movies realized that paying attention to details has no downside, and the upside that the people in the audience who care about these details look upon the movie more favorably.

I've mentioned in other reviews, such as the one for the Tom Dowd movie, that Dan is the Seaver brother with the vast musical talent (I had to settle for math), and Ray hits the right combination of making things comprehensible to tin-eared ignorami like myself and not sounding patronizing. Ray's early talent for mimicry is made interesting, as is his absorption of gospel and country & western which contributes to his unique sound just as much as jazz and blues. Bits of musical production that normally wouldn't interest me are used for characterization, too - Tom Dowd introducing Ray to eight-track recording isn't just a nifty bit of biographical trivia, it's a means to show the audience that Ray could be more than a bit of a control freak and was willing to cast aside people who'd been with him for some time.

That warts-and-all portrayal is another part of what makes this movie so watchable. It's not just showing a beloved figure as a drug addict and womanizer - in real life, Ray Charles has seldom been shy about admitting those failings. That he was willing to be a bit of a bastard, ending professional relationships with longtime associates because it was good business, is probably the more surprising, and off-putting side of him. There's something a little monstrous-feeling about those scenes, with all-business declarations coming out of that familiar, smiling face.

Jamie Foxx was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles, and I won't necessarily argue with it. It's not the best nominated performance, and it sometimes feels like Foxx is hitting the same note over and over again. Still, one seldom looks at the screen and sees Jamie Foxx instead of Ray Charles. The biggest flaw in the role is that it's sometimes a little jarring to go from Jamie Foxx's speaking voice to Ray Charles singing - Foxx never really gets any gravel to his voice, but that's perhaps a good thing - trying to speak in Ray's familiar rough voice might have bumped it from a portrayal to a mere imitation.

Thankfully, Foxx doesn't blow the rest of the cast off the screen. Kerry Washington is excellent as Ray's wife of 22 years, Della Bea (although the film conveniently omits his first wife and a scene in 1979 doesn't reflect their divorce); Regina King and Aunjanue Ellis are fine as two of his long-time backup singers and mistresses. Clifton Powell is a strong presence in the inevitable "long-time friend and assistant" role.

It's surprising to me that it took Taylor Hackford a decade and a half to get this film made, ultimately shooting it independently and then having a hard time finding a studio before Universal picked it up. I have to believe it was Hackford himself that unnerved the studios (despite his unfortunate name and less-than-sterling track record, he does deliver solid work here); the idea of a Ray Charles biopic itself seems commercial as all heck. Everyone loves Ray Charles; his music shows up in places as varied as blues clubs, Diet Pepsi commercials, and sci-fi anime, and his story is compelling. The other explanation is that an expensive biopic with an almost all-black cast got them worried; I hope that's not the case.

Ray is up for a number of Oscars, although it's not the strongest in any category. Well, maybe editing - it's a two-and-a-half hour movie that doesn't seem to go on forever and whose ending comes before the film has worn out its welcome. Paul Hirsch deserves a shout-out, especially considering all the music he and the other filmmakers managed to fit in without making the movie feel bloated.

Ray doesn't break new ground for the biopic, but it executes very well. It is, in many ways, what The Aviator isn't - a well-chosen combination of profilee, actor, and filmmaker with a passion for the subject.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10361&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/30/05 21:21:33
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/28/09 Jeff Wilder Foxx's performance alone makes it worth viewing. 4 stars
9/27/08 Shaun Wallner Boring!! 1 stars
2/03/08 Pamela White Nice to see that celebritys whole life 5 stars
4/30/07 MP Bartley Foxx is excellent but it's no Walk the Line 3 stars
2/21/07 R.W.Welch Overlong biopic is carried by class A acting across the board. 4 stars
7/04/06 bonnie mckeithren It's obvious,that though you rate many movies you know nothing...about life. 5 stars
4/24/06 Frankie Its not everything i imagined but it was iight 3 stars
4/02/06 JRE great acting, but average movie 4 stars
9/08/05 ralph a true movie expert 32 yrs old jamie foxx really won me over with this performance.if you dont like this film your weird. 4 stars
8/02/05 ALDO Overactors' showcase, Ray's mom was pitiful, script sucked, lighting sucked, Foxx was good 2 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins You have to be blind and deaf to enjoy this, retched. 1 stars
7/07/05 ELI AAAAAAARG!!! People didn't like it that much??? screw 'em! 5 stars
6/27/05 JFK good movie, too long i think. Jamie foxx best job 4 stars
5/21/05 Cham A big letdown after all the hype. Jamie Foxx is good though. 3 stars
5/19/05 wendy rogers I liked this movie ok...did not know much about Ray before seeing it 4 stars
5/06/05 edsandiego2 I love the movie. Just listening to the music is well worth it. 4 stars
5/05/05 Michelle Lofton inspirational! 4 stars
5/05/05 Mind Junkie Awesome 5 stars
5/03/05 Kyle Kapetanakis Only watch it to see a great performance from Jamie Foxx, like Charlize Theron in Monster 4 stars
5/01/05 dwarzel Academy awards for doing impressions? 1 stars
4/24/05 OverTheRainbow one of the best in a long time- a must see! 5 stars
4/18/05 Maril Smith Excellent acting by all and very in-depth look at Ray Charles' life 5 stars
4/15/05 Carol Conway Great acting and soundtrack 4 stars
4/15/05 Jeff Gilliland Wow, I didn't know Ray was such a jerk. Good flick, but perhaps overated. 4 stars
4/11/05 Carolyn Rathburn Very well done, good movie. 5 stars
4/08/05 Dan AWESOME. 5 stars
4/08/05 Tanya Grays regina king was great 5 stars
3/25/05 Denise moving 4 stars
3/23/05 dana Gordon A rate of awesome for Jamie Foxx's performance alone 5 stars
3/18/05 Green Grenlim Jamie Foxx is the best thing about this movie !!! 4 stars
3/07/05 Taylor Fladgate Eric Childress, once again, nails a review...Jamie Foxx was incredible. 4 stars
3/06/05 Daveman Cracking performance from Foxx is done no justice by this altogether ordinary biopic. 3 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung jamie deserved the oscar 4 stars
2/23/05 Mary JD Wonderful... I cried... felt such emotions from Jamie Foxx's acting 5 stars
2/23/05 KR Best Picture? No. But Foxx better get that Oscar, damnit! 5 stars
2/21/05 George "The Duke" Feist Amazing Jamie Foxx...3 movies (on TV) up for awards 5 stars
2/18/05 Captain Craig Talent production from start to finish. 5 stars
2/18/05 april gupton good, but a little too long 4 stars
2/15/05 Miranda Lahr Great movie, Rest well ray 5 stars
2/13/05 Jeanine Price Loved Jamie Foxx 4 stars
2/12/05 Sylvia Belle Very interesting biographical information 4 stars
2/11/05 Aimee Shelton Jamie Foxx delivers an amazing performance! 4 stars
2/08/05 Lisa Jochelson I loved this movie. They left a ton out, but I guess they had to. 5 stars
2/08/05 Al Guy A great movie, especially for music lovers. 5 stars
2/06/05 Jim Interesting. Learned a lot of stuff, for instance, "Booger' has gotten bald. 4 stars
2/05/05 Cassandra Farrar AWESOME!!! 5 stars
2/03/05 Tanya Grays Excellent film, Jamie Foxx has proven himself in this movie to be a great actor. 5 stars
2/03/05 Kent B. Jamie Fox did an excellent job in this movie. 4 stars
2/01/05 Rodney Stephens REALLY ENJOYED IT 4 stars
1/31/05 Danita Berg Go get your Oscar, Jamie! I really thought this movie was well done, and Jaime suprised me 5 stars
1/31/05 Lynda Eby Was interesting 4 stars
1/31/05 Andrea Haresign Loved It!! 5 stars
1/31/05 Alison this movie has not gotten near the attention it deserves 5 stars
1/29/05 Gretchen Lowe very good, I was expecting a comedy though 3 stars
1/28/05 Richard Brandt Like many biopics, ends by trying to wrap things up rather than come to a conclusion 4 stars
1/21/05 Uncle Phucker Don't respect the director but he pulled off a pretty damn good movie. Acting is great! 5 stars
12/27/04 efrain Not spectacular, but really worth seeing. Foxx is awesome. 4 stars
11/30/04 malcolm that was 2.5 hours? never felt like it. Foxx's Ray a million times better than Smith's Ali! 4 stars
11/12/04 ownerofdajoint foxx is brilliant;BRILLIANT i tell you;this has best actor for foxx all over it! 5 stars
11/09/04 psycho black dwarf sweet sounds, well delivered dialogue, visually stimulating flashbacks 4 stars
11/07/04 Eric This is definitely the best film of the year! Jamie Foxx was incredible! 5 stars
11/06/04 Suzz great performances; good film making; a bit long 5 stars
11/05/04 Jonetta It was great 5 stars
11/03/04 Arlene mesmerizing performances, fantastic movie! 5 stars
11/03/04 John phenomenal performances - well done and very entertaining 5 stars
11/03/04 vagile Surprisingly good. 4 stars
11/02/04 Kris Jamie will get a nod but the academy wont give him his due...watch 4 stars
11/01/04 Jay It was great, JF should get a nod and the music was wonderful, I agree it was a long movie 5 stars
11/01/04 Shay Knowles I thought the movie was good, a bit long but it kept my interest. Jamie Foxx was excellen! 4 stars
11/01/04 Llorie I thought the movie was amazing and anyone who love music should go see it 5 stars
11/01/04 lulu jamie foxx rocks! 5 stars
11/01/04 Jack Paris Best bio flick that I have ever seen 5 stars
11/01/04 Paul E-motive! Wonderful performance by JF & cast. 5 stars
10/31/04 Naka Somebody should delete that previous comment. Jackass. 5 stars
10/30/04 ajay certainly worth a look. 4 stars
10/29/04 Kimberly Phenomenal 5 stars
10/29/04 Mix Master Mason Foxx rocks, but this is generic bio-pic stuff... like a VH1 behind the scenes kind of thing 4 stars
9/26/04 Dawn Danowski I loved it. The music was great, Jamie Foxx was great! 5 stars
9/14/04 MM Some problems, but Jamie Foxx is amazing 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Oct-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Feb-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Jan-2005




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