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by DrChumley

"Foxx is amazing, the film: so-so"
4 stars

There has been a great deal of talk swirling around the release of Ray, the biographical film based on Ray Charles Robinson. Rumors of Oscar nominations for the leading man, Jamie Foxx, have been rampant. But despite the rumors and hype surrounding this film, Director Taylor Hackford (The Devil’s Advocate, When We Were Kings) proves in one less-than-fell swoop what Will Smith learned the hard way: Creating a good biopic is hard. And sometimes, those in charge just aren’t up to the task.

Ray follows the life of Ray Charles as he begins his career, discovers drugs and women, begins to create a name for himself, records hit after hit, and eventually hits rock bottom. Played to a twitchy, hyperactive, swaggering perfection by Jamie Foxx, Ray flashes back regularly to his poverty-stricken early life when his younger brother drowned, when he begins to lose his sight, and when he learns to play the piano. “Don’t let nobody turn you into a cripple,” Ray’s mother constantly admonishes him during the frequent flashbacks.

As Ray sets off on his own, he learns from experience how to negotiate a world in which honesty and forthrightness are not admirable traits. Ray asks to be paid in one dollar bills so he can be certain he isn’t being cheated. He plays “country dumb” in order to make sure that record labels and managers aren’t trying to bilk him out of his hard-earned money.

Along the way, however, Ray immerses himself in the worlds of drugs and women. A hard heroine habit and long-term infidelity begin to take its toll on Ray’s personal life. In the end, it is Ray’s own actions which turn him into the cripple about which he was warned by his mother.

Jamie Foxx deserves every single award nomination or statuette that he will receive for his portrayal of Ray Charles. An accomplished pianist in his own right, Foxx used his mimicry skill honed in the world of cheesy television comedy to channel the spirit of the then-still-living Ray Charles. The sway, the tapping of the feet, the high-lipped smile, the rapid-fire patter of Charles’ natural cadence: they’re all there with stunning perfection. And what’s more, Foxx manages to find all these affectations while still maintaining an iron clad emotional connection to all that’s going on around him. He has come a long way from his big-lipped proclamation, “I’ll rock your world” on In Living Color. Were Foxx’s acting the only measure of the film’s quality, Ray would be one of the greatest films in the last 25 years.

Unfortunately, the acting skills of the leading man are only a small part of what should be a cohesively crafted film. Tragically, the man at the helm of this film, Hackford, whose previous directing credentials do nothing to qualify his to direct a film of this magnitude, is never able decide what kind of film he wants Ray to be. Hackford jumps between artsy camera work and abstract flashbacks to hyper-realism to cheesy montages with newspaper clippings and billboards flying across the screen while a bus or train drives across an expanse of countryside in the background. And he does it all without any rhyme, reason, or likely any thought at all. The film looks like it was edited as a made-for-TV movie—with multiple blackouts as though the film is cutting to commercial. The overall result is a mish-mash of pseudo-high art and populist schlock that makes Ray feel disjointed, mulish, and overly-long.

The screenplay, written by James I. White (who, according to IMDB.com, does not have any other writing credits to his name) is also partially to blame for the uneven feel of the film. I don’t envy the task of trying to create a dramatic screenplay based on true life: because even when wonderful or catastrophic things happen in real life, they are usually small blips on what is otherwise a relatively boring, uninterrupted course of monotony. That being said, much care could have been taken to weave those elements of Charles’ life together in a more film-friendly fashion.

And, of course, since this movie is about a musician, the music must be mentioned. Interspersing Foxx’s virtuosic piano skills and voice with the original recordings of Ray Charles is done nearly seamlessly. As a professional vocalist and pianist myself, I was able to detect some of the more blatant switches, but the majority of the audience that goes to see this film will never notice. Besides the stirring scenes of live music in the clubs or those exhilarating moments in the studio where everything clicks, Charles’ own music is often used as underscoring to various scenes, in essence showing us, at least in part, some of the inspiration for Charles’ greatest hits. The film scoring by Craig Armstrong wisely stays in the background and allows the focus to rest squarely on the broad shoulders of the songs with which Ray Charles changed the popular American music landscape.

Despite its many structural flaws, Ray is a fascinating glance into the tormented soul of a pioneer in American music. Anyone who loves good music will appreciate this film. Additionally, the spellbinding performance of Foxx, along with those of all of his co-stars, makes this film a must-see.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10361&reviewer=311
originally posted: 11/01/04 00:06:46
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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

10/05/18 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
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
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  29-Oct-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Feb-2005



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