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Overall Rating

Awesome: 26.43%
Worth A Look54.29%
Just Average: 12.14%
Pretty Crappy: 5%
Sucks: 2.14%

10 reviews, 80 user ratings

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by Robert Flaxman

"You've got the wrong one, baby. Uh huh."
2 stars

Frequently, biopics are accused of glossing over flaws in the lives of their subjects, ignoring ugly truths to put a more glamorous spin on a historical figure. Taylor Hackford’s Ray has, if anything, the opposite problem: after all the warts are revealed, there doesn’t seem to be much of Ray Charles left to actually respect.

Ray concerns itself almost exclusively with a period of less than two decades – from Charles’ 1948 departure of Florida for Seattle until his 1965 arrest for heroin possession in Boston and subsequent cleaning up. Charles produced a lot of popular songs in that time period, but as a person he seems to have been somewhat miserable – a compulsive womanizer and drug addict who pretty much ignored the family he started.

It’s hard to make a biopic work with a subject so unsavory, especially when the person in question is generally considered one of the most beloved entertainers of his time. The people who remember Charles crooning “You got the right one, baby” in Diet Pepsi commercials of the early 1990s may have a hard time reconciling that image with the one onscreen, especially when so little is given to mitigate it.

Still, Ray might have worked if Charles’ life were interesting enough. Even taking into consideration the obstacles he had to overcome being blind since the age of seven, though, there isn’t a whole lot of meat to Charles’ story. Musically, he basically got popular and stayed popular. As a film, Ray has a clumsy trajectory that often borders on nonexistent – most of its drama comes from Charles’ juggling of girlfriends, and in general it seems too preoccupied with checking scenes off a list to actually do anything riveting. What is perhaps the film’s most important moment in an objective analysis – Charles’ decision not to play a segregated venue in Georgia – is handled in impossibly awkward fashion, with Ray having an epiphany that in three seconds turns him from telling a protestor, “There’s nothing I can do,” to turning around and getting back on his tour bus. One of the strongest and most important things Ray Charles ever did and it gets about as much screen time as a montage of him feeling women’s wrists to determine their attractiveness.

Hackford’s ham-fisted direction, featuring superimposed titles in clumsy montages, doesn’t help, nor does it help that his editor’s idol appears to be George Lucas, what with all the wipe and iris edits. Nor does the film’s style contribute anything but confusion. Most of the film resembles That Thing You Do! with its bouncy music-movie way of carrying itself – which might be okay if Ray didn’t seem to be taking itself much, much more seriously on the whole. Even more bizarre is a scene near the end during Charles’ cold-turkey stint in rehab, where for about two minutes we suddenly wander into Requiem for a Dream. I can think of maybe one other scene I have ever seen in a film that was as out of place stylistically as this one.

So, Ray isn’t all that good. But it’s okay, right? Because Jamie Foxx’s performance carries the movie?

Well, no, it really doesn’t. I’m not going to call Foxx bad – he’s not. But, especially for a performance that was feted like this one, he’s really nothing to write home about. He’s doing an okay impression of Ray Charles, but that’s about it – it’s not an Oscar-worthy performance. The supporting cast is made up of consummate professionals who are all fine, but again, that’s about it.

Really, everything about this film screams “Let’s just get it done, so we can have a movie about Ray Charles.” It’s not very interesting, it’s clumsily made, and it humanizes its subject almost to a fault. Did we need a two and a half hour movie just to tell us what a creep Ray Charles was for a significant portion of his life? Charles apparently read the script and sat in on the first cut of the film before he passed away, making me wonder if he actually approved this portrait of himself.

The funniest aspect of this is that at the end of the film, Hackford puts up an embarrassingly cheesy title saying something along the lines of “Over the next 40 years, Ray Charles continued to make music that everyone loved.” The film ends with a “Ray Charles: 1930-2004” still. This would be fine if the film had been lionizing Charles to begin with, but the character in the film didn’t seem like someone to be beloved or especially missed. Did Hackford honestly think that his Ray Charles was a sympathetic character, or was it taken for granted that because everyone loves Ray Charles, no one would come out of the film thinking less of him?

Even in its best moments, Ray fails to rise above mediocrity in either form or content. Clumsy and banal pretty much across the board, it’s a film whose truthfulness hurts it about as much as anything else – by failing to either jazz up Ray Charles’ life or make him a likable character, the only thing Ray has really succeeded in doing is making the memory of an American musical icon as unpleasant as possible.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10361&reviewer=385
originally posted: 05/02/05 05:16:08
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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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