Buy Ray
2004
Rated: R for adult language, sexual references, drug use, and violence.
Genre: Biographical Drama Musical Romance
Directed By: Taylor Hackford
Running Time: 2:33
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 4/17/05
DVD Features:
Deleted Scenes - 2 Uncut Musical Performances
Audio Commentary - 1. Taylor Hackford - Director
Featurette - 1. Stepping Into The Part
2. Ray Remembered
3. A Look Inside Ray
Trailers
If you like this, try: Shine, Amadeus, The Buddy Holley Story, Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, La Bamba

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RAY

 

I'm a big fan of Ray Charles' music, and when I first saw the trailer for his film I was excited I have to admit simply because this man was a force to be reckoned with in any form in the light of day. When I was a kid I mostly connected his appearance to the Pepsi commercials I really got a kick out of, but when I grew, I learned more about his
music and learned that, unlike a majority of soul artists today, he was a real musician and innovator. This was a man who took the limits of his skin color that kept him down at the time along with his disability and used it to his advantage with his pure musical genius, his ability to reach beyond the musical genre and discover all sorts of facets of music
experimenting. He was a true singer and pianist. However it took time for the idiots at Hollywood to come to the realization that a Charles bio-pic was potential gold as this was a troubled project for years, and director Hackford had been developing this film since 1987, as the producers had a hard time finding a studio to finance the project, who felt Charles wasn't good enough to have for a feature film and wanted to reduce this mans story to Television movie fodder.

"Ray" once again proved he had power, and showed that the studios are relatively clueless as the "gamble" paid off with numerous Oscar nominations, a win for Foxx, good box office, and rave reviews. As for the film whether it was worth the gamble, that would be a yes. The film directed by Taylor Hackford is a bittersweet inspiring tale of Ray Charles' life, love,
and struggle with drug abuse. Charles played by Jamie Foxx in an amazing performance, is portrayed with the humanity and flaws that give this film the reality it needs and never pulls back. Charles himself picked Foxx after a rigorous test of piano skills and approved him personally, and the film manages to convey all of Foxx' skill in its entirety. Ray was a
pioneer who innovated in jazz, r&b, gospel and made his way despite two handicaps of the time, his skin color and his blindness, this film demonstrates his sheer genius for innovating such music making him into a legend that would be admired for decades.

Charles was a musician, clear and simple and the film examines both the man behind the music and the man with enough balance to make this film exceptional. Foxx embodies Charles with all his mannerisms, and idiosyncrasies and gives a truly good performance for a well deserved Oscar. The film itself glosses over the mild details but focuses on more of the moments of Ray's life which had more impact that led to his transformation of a musician and of the man he eventually became as he got older, and all of it is given here from his experiments in other music to his willingness to take control, and setting the stage for many other singers of his kind. The movie has a strong feminine theme that's
present throughout the story. The real soul of the film lies within the women in Ray's life, all of which are played with great performances by some talented actresses. For some true examples on good performances that went un-credited look to three actresses that pulled in some great performances one of whom being Sharon Warren as Ray's tough and
strict mother who teaches her son to face his disability and survive.

She's powerful in her performance and sets the stage for many of Ray's strengths with his disability. Another one of the strong performances that went un-credited was the
performance from Kerry Washington who plays Charles' first wife. She often becomes the moral center of his life that he has struggles keeping in tact throughout his life, but he can't help being human. She's a devoted center in Charles' life despite his infidelity to her and obvious infidelity at that, and often times becomes the reasons his infidelity fails because
of his undying devotion to her. The best aspect of the film though is the presentation of Regina King's talents in her excellent performance as Ray's lover and long time back up singer Margie Hendricks. Her performance in here is so good, and she was so un-credited this year it was criminal. Couldn't at least have given her a nomination, come on! She's
definitely going to get one very soon. King is great here and often times very charismatic when she's not even trying to be and I enjoyed her presence on screen when she was bickering back and forth with Charles.

Along with the strong female theme, Hackford manages to bring about some truly memorable sequences including the climax, and--my favorite sequence of the movie--the origin of my favorite Charles song "What I'd Say", it's an excellent sequence which gave me goose bumps because as many fans know the song was created on the spot when Ray had to kill time after he played a short gig. Its a great sequence Hackford appropriately milks and the pay off was enormous for me. This is a very memorable and probably one of the more epic biography pictures of the last century.

As I mentioned, I'm a big fan of Ray Charles, I love a lot of his songs, so you can imagine how much of a crushing blow this was when I bought into the hype for this film when people declared it as a masterpiece and it with all the nominations and the big win for best actor in its corner, I inevitably bought into that this may be one of the best films
I'd see in two years, and you can imagine how much of a crushing blow it was for me when I discovered, this was good -- but not great, watchable, but nothing to really get into a fit over, and, of course the fact that I wasn't overwhelmed once during the film, not in its concept, plot, acting and basically any other facet of the story. I have to be overwhelmed to consider a movie a masterpiece, and it just wasn't working with me in the long run.

It's a good film, but hardly what I'd consider the standard for a masterpiece. Basically, what really griped me about the film in particular and kept me focusing on the positives was the fact that this was just so manipulative with the audiences emotions, first in its story primarily and the way it sets it all up basically negating the true experience of what emerged through Charles' life, but instead the screenwriters tend to focus on the dramatic Hollywood-ized aspects of the story with the death of Charles brother, and his often weird flashes in which he envisions he's in water reaching for his brother who tragically drowned in a bathtub. Most of everything in this film didn't feel genuine, it just felt like it was reaching for the audience to cry and to get us to sympathize without any real sentiment behind it.

I wasn't buying a lot of the things that they were trying to pull on us and often times I inadvertently found myself rolling my eyes. But the touches that were obviously put in by
Hollywood for dramatic effect often never worked. It's alluded the death of Charles' brother added to his blindness, his mom's face constantly flashing in his mind to never forget his roots while he comes near selling out, and so on that it just wasn't clicking with me at all. Not to mention this can tend to be surprisingly cheesy at certain points of the story,
including when Ray finally gets a hit with "What I'd Say", and suddenly we see people enjoying it including white kids in a beach dancing to it which I found really corny, and not to mention Ray's "supposed" invention of "Hit the Road, Jack" which was not only stupid, but I just couldn't help rolling my eyes with, and often times the flashbacks with his mom and brother are too visual and emotionally manipulative for us to actually jerk a tear for. Ultimately, I was under-whelmed immensely and sorely disappointed.

I wanted excellent, but I got just mediocre, and that's okay because this is a good film despite its many flaws. And in spite of it being a rigid story, it's still well acted with some amazing performances from Foxx, Washington, and King along with great direction and killer music.

  • Jamie Foxx was in "Any Given Sunday" with Al Pacino, who was in "Heat" with Robert Deniro, who starred in "Sleepers" with Kevin Bacon.
  • Ray Charles died of liver failure on 10 June 2004, after filming had ended. He was able to sit through the first edit of the film before his death.
  • Ray Charles survived by 12 children, 21 grandchildren, and 5 great
    grandchildren.

 

 

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