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Ray /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Regina King, Kerry Washington, Richard Schiff, Aunjanue Ellis

Directed by: Taylor Hackford

Produced by: Taylor Hackford, Stuart Benjamin, Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin, Howard L. Baldwin
Written by:
Taylor Hackford, James White
Universal Pictures


Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Universal's Ray
Richard Schiff as Jerry Wexler and Curtis Armstrong as Ahmet Ertegun in Universal's Ray
Julian Bond , Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington in Universal Pictures' Ray

     Those who regularly follow multiple critics may be tired of reading the insurmountable amount of praise that Jamie Foxx is receiving for his performance in Ray, but speaking as one who has seen the movie, I am here to announce that such rave is simply inexhaustible. Watching the man capture the spirit of Ray Charles, I seldom remembered that he was an actor in a movie. Some moviegoers may use Foxx’s naturalness as an excuse to take his work for granted, but, in truth, it is undeniable that his performance is easily the best of the year, by far.

     Unfortunately, even with such a remarkable offering on its side, Ray is bogged down by the staleness of its own execution. As a biopic, this film is about as by-the-numbers as they come, relying on a boring style and a straightforward account of history to progress. It chronicles the life of Ray Charles, the blind father of soul music and the prolific and experimental contributor to many other genres. Charles faced his fair share of hardships, throughout his career. Most of these did not have anything to do with music, such as his encounters with drugs and adultery. Ray left me with no doubt that the man lived an amazing life, but whether it does it justice or not is debatable.

     Screenwriter James L. White notably penned an accurate account of his subject’s life; before Charles died, he read it in brail-form and offered his blessing in making the movie. While this was admirable, it also permits for some very boring sketches. Ray offers a very complete telling of the musician’s life, packing in loads of events into its 152 minute running length. But, as a result, it occasionally feels more like a chore to watch than a treat, capturing a similar effect that a televised mini-series on Charles would, in one sitting.

     Another aspect of Ray that detracts from its quality is its peculiar non-linear structure. Instead of telling the story of Charles’ life, in chronological order, director Taylor Hackford opens to the time in which the artist hopped a segregated bus, in transit to his first musical job, across the country, from his hometown in Florida. Hackford later jumps back and forth in time. By the end of the film, the audience has witnessed most of the major occurrences from Charles’ childhood to the height of his career take place, in full. My question: was there any reason that the sequence of events had to be roughly out of order?

     Ray is in its finest form during its many musical numbers, in which Foxx brilliantly lip-synchs to tracks of Charles, and recreates the experience of his character’s many performances. In a sense, the audience escapes from the vulnerability of the protagonist’s life in just the way that he, himself, does. Watching the acted concerts in the movie isn’t as amazing as the real ones probably were, but they at least manage to do them justice. For those who were not alive when Charles was in his prime, like me, Ray offers an enjoyable and fresh compilation of his work, even if it is less than proficient, in a narrative sense.

     As much as Ray flounders, throughout its duration, it remains worth seeing. Just thinking of Foxx’s interpretation, sunglasses on and piano at his side, I am tempted to pound away at my computer keyboard and recreate the groovy tunes in my head, right now. This picture certainly cannot be criticized for lack of heart; as flawed as the efforts of some of those behind it turned out to be, they certainly had passion, making it. As a moviegoer, I have learned to put imperfections aside when the time is right and the effort is genuine, and Ray has provided me with the perfect opportunity to do just this.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (11.10.2004)

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