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My wife wanted to see this movie and I grudgingly went along. I have
never been a big fan of the biopic - believing that cinema is more
exciting when it isn't structured in non-fiction. Beyond that, although
I like Ray Charles' music just fine, I don't consider myself a fan of
him or his music.
I expected to either suffer or coast through this movie.
I was wrong.
This is an engaging story told in a classic cinematic style. The realism is in the nuances - the tilt of a character's head after a dramatic moment or the look in their eyes while they sing. I literally discovered myself involved in this movie during the course of viewing it.
Jaime Foxx, of which much has been said, heads a cast of immaculate re-creators of not just a time, but an ERA, a LIFE that never really existed to those of us under forty. This movie sinks the audience into time without the gimmicks and grand sweeping panoramas of Titanic or other period pieces of that ilk. This movie doesn't present you with the 50's and 60's music scene, it takes you there.
This is a movie about Ray Charles, but your appreciate of it should not be limited to the story of his life. This is the kind of movie, like Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List, that does what a movie should do - bring you to another place, another time.
Given that Jamie Fox's former leading credentials not that long ago were limited to the Fox comedy series In Living Color and the atrocity of film, Booty Call, this is a truly pleasant surprise break-out performance. Jamie Fox is Ray Charles in this movie. You never question it or even think of him as Jamie Fox. It truly is uncanny. He physically looks like him, especially with the glasses, but the true magic of the performance is that he acts just like him. He walks around and performs like him, smiles like him, and just does everything like him. This is the best rendering of a real-life character in film since Jim Carrey's depiction of Andy Kaufman in Man On The Moon. However, I'd venture to say that Fox's rendering of Ray is even better. The film itself is good too, though it fails to make a smooth transition in several parts of it and lulls in some parts, while not lingering long enough in others. Of course all films of this nature that are essentially biographies to some extent tend to suffer somewhat from things of this nature. It's hard to pack 70 years into 2 1/2 hrs. Thus, the script mainly traces his early days starting out in music up into the late 60's, with a few flashbacks into his childhood and a brief jump to a single event in 1979. This is the only film I have ever seen in which the entire audience, myself included, stood up and gave a standing ovation after the last scene. It's a celebration of the life of Ray Charles that must be seen by all of his fans. The film doesn't pull any punches though. Two of the main dramatic focuses of the picture are Ray's infidelity on the road and his heroine addiction. All-in-all, a good movie, a great Oscar-worthy performance, and a good way to spend 2 1/2 hrs. This movie held my attention so well throughout its entirety that I really couldn't believe it was nearly as long as a lengthy epic like Titanic. A few quick notes: Jamie Fox spent a lot of time with Ray Charles in preparing for this role. Jamie wore prosthetics during the entire filming of the movie that made him unable to see, so if you wonder why he acts like he's blind so well, it's because he was for the movie. Also, he did all the piano playing himself, as he is practically a professionally trained pianist himself. However, for the singing, Jamie lip syncs perfectly to Charles' vocals. Overall, 8/10 movie...10/10 Jamie Fox performance.
If someone had nudged me about 15 minutes into 'Ray' and asked what I
thought of Jamie Foxx in the title role, it would have been time for a
blank stare. After all, what is this (fictitious) person talking'
about? That wasn't Jamie Foxx up on the big screen. That was Ray
Charles. This is one of the best performances by anybody in recent
years. Like the soundtrack, Jamie as Ray is flat-out brilliant.
The blind Genius of Soul (who took a revolutionary step of mixing gospel with R&B) died during production. The movie about his troubled life is good, not great. Taylor Hackford's direction and James L. White's script follow the well-worn biopic outline. Super-talented youngster battles adversity, achieves greatness while also self-destructing, then picks himself up out of the gutter for a happy ending. The film shows Charles' flaws (heroin abuse, chronic womanizing, persistent bastard-fathering) even as it sucks you in with his beautiful music.
Kerry Washington and Regina King play the main women in Ray's life, one his long-suffering wife and the other his longtime mistress. Both actresses match Foxx stride for stride. What takes him to a different level, though, is his deep understanding and uncanny impersonation of the great musician. The entire cast is effective, especially Sharon Warren as his headstrong mother and Curtis Armstrong as a music exec. Hackford's stars are likely to be rewarded with trophies and---better yet---more starring roles.
I was not a Ray Charles aficionado before 'Ray'. Apparently, the film has left out a lot (as do all biopics), but this picture functions as both an old-fashioned crowd pleaser AND a dark investigation of a brilliant/troubled man. For those who whine that Foxx doesn't actually sing (as if that somehow diminishes his performance), take a hike. No mere actor can sing like Mr. Charles anyway. You can't have everything. What the talented star does in this picture is about as close to "everything" as we'll probably see for a while.
First of all, it is sheer joy to hear the legend perform such wonderful
and timeless music. This movie and soundtrack is a tour de force. Ray
Charles is unique and amazing. I truly adored the film as it was
inspiring and entertaining throughout.
Jamie Foxx has become one of the premiere actors in Hollywood as is clearly shown in Ray and he should get an Oscar for this role, it is unprecedented. In fact, everyone who worked on this film should receive accolades. I really liked Kerry Washington who played the exceptional wife...Ray Charles obviously married well. Regina King is a fine actress as well as the extraordinary Sharon Warren who plays a struggling young mother.
In all honesty, I'd say this whole project was providentially arranged. The entire cast was perfect, great screenplay and awesome settings...major props to the director Taylor Hackford and crew for doing such a splendid job in bringing the life of Ray Charles to the screen so flawlessly. This is my picture of the year, certainly one of the best biographical films ever made.
Let's get the flaw out of the way right off the top - the movie should
have been much longer. Ray Charles was a brilliant, fascinating man who
lead a complex, challenging life. There was simply no way to fit it all
- or even touch on it all - in a standard length movie. Given that, the
makers of this film did an admirable (and I'm sure quite agonizing) job
of putting together a film that could not tell the whole story yet
managed to set forth a representative sampling of the man and his
music. Ray Charles' strengths were evident throughout the film and his
weaknesses were neither amplified nor sugar-coated. We could have
wished for another hour chronicling his life after 1980, but I suppose
that would have tended to turn the film into an homage and, while it
would have also allowed for the resolution of several things that were
left hanging at the end, on balance I guess it was better as presented.
Now for the big question: what are the criteria for an Oscar? The wife and I have seen untold numbers of films in our years, but we immediately agreed that we have never seen a performance the equal of Jamie Foxx's. The line between actor and character was not blurred - but rather it disappeared completely. We had heard much of the hype before seeing the movie, but this was uncanny. Foxx WAS Ray Charles. You didn't watch the movie with the feeling that you were watching Foxx do an outstanding job of portraying Ray Charles - you watched it somehow believing or understanding that you were watching Ray Charles himself. I don't know how else to put it. We were completely blown away. I'll admit that we haven't seen all of the other performances up for an Oscar this year, but that really doesn't matter. Foxx took this to a whole nuther level, one which we've never witnessed before and doubt that we may ever see again. I can think of no other movie I've ever seen in which a person playing a part so completely and convincingly became the person portrayed. We salute you, Mr. Foxx. We understand that the awarding of an Oscar has to do with much more than the performance, but whether or not you win, we want you to know that you have done something that is in a class absolutely by itself and you should take enormous pride in your unparalleled achievement.
P.S. The music was naturally great. I remarked to the wife that if there is one moment in the history of music to which I wish I could have been witness, it would have been the genesis (in Kansas City, wasn't it?) of What'd I Say? The film did a wonderful job with it - just wish I could've been there!
This movie has inspired me to be a better person. In life you don't know who you will run across and sometimes our prejudice will cause us to prejudge a person wrongly. I have learned to give a person the benefit of the doubt because of this movie. I also learned that tough love can build a stronger person. Now I want to know where to find the movie soundtrack. There are songs in this soundtrack I have been trying to get for years. May I comment on the acting for a second. Jamie Fox was outstanding. The man has risen to be the actor of actors. Also the performance of Regina King was awesome. If I can get a woman to look at me the way she looked at Ray...I can only dream. I plucked down $18.00 for this movie and I don't have a lot of money but I am willing to see this movie again and again. This movie touched me.
This is one of the best movies I have seen in years. I took me to a new
time and place. It was as though I was right there with Ray through his
many trials and triumphs. Jamie Foxx transformed himself into Ray.
During the movie he was Ray. Also, Kerry Washington, Sharon Robinson
and Regina King were superb. The movie was well cast and directed, the
music was fantastic.
I've seen the movie four (4) times with different people and the last time was just as enjoyable as the first time. I will buy the DVD as soon as it is released. This is a movie that will viewed over and over for years to come.
Thank you for a great experience.
Taylor Hackford wanted to make this movie for 15 years, and finally found Jamie Foxx to play the title role. Foxx is amazing in his portrayal of Ray Charles. From an interview I saw with Foxx, he met Charles several times and the two of them also played piano together (Foxx had piano lessons as a young child and actually played piano in all his scenes). I didn't see Charles live until his later years, so it was great to get a perspective on how his career developed. I hope Foxx gets nominated for the Best Actor Oscar as he certainly deserves it. The music, also, is incredible - it really showcases the breadth of Charles' music, from country to blues, and everything in between. The movie also gives an unblemished account of Ray Charles' life, from the many women he had relationships with to his drug habit and the consequences of that.
Jamie Foxx leads a brilliant cast in this powerful voyage through the
life of the blind, emotionally troubled, African American genius of pop
jazz, Mr. Ray Charles. Though the entire cast performs wonderfully, Mr.
Foxx earned more than simply an Oscar. If it were possible to nominate
an actor in consecutive years, I would consider doing so for Mr. Foxx.
Foxx doesn't just play Charles, he re-creates him. CJ Sanders and
Sharon Warren also deserve special mention for their portrayal of Ray's
mother (the inspiration of his life) and young Ray. These two provided
the strongest support in the film.
The dramas of Charles' struggles with guilt, the death of his younger brother and mother, blindness, discrimination, addiction, and success, are neatly woven into the tapestries of his music. The music is beautiful, the script is, as far as I can tell, perfect, and the acting is nothing short of legendary.
The directorial method of the film warrants discussion. Taylor Hackford - a director I am generally ambivalent about - had to choose what aspects of the larger-than-life and complex life story of Mr. Charles would tell his story most honestly, dramatically, and understandably. Though some disagree (seemingly wanting a documentary instead of a dramatized biopic) I believe he selected his themes admirably. A big part of the success of this film is its consistent focus on a few persistent themes in Charles' life - his profound love and respect for his mother, his need to be loved and accepted, his addiction and guilt complex, his musical genius, and his deep-seated fear of responsibility for others. Charles is depicted as a man struggling valiantly against an army of personal demons. I learned more than I could have imagined about one of the men I used to listen to on my old turntable with my dad in his livingroom on Sunday nights while football games were on the TV. And nothing was sugar-coated in "Ray." The themes are carried forward with power and human dignity. These themes create a unifying drama which span the length of his long and illuminated life. The power of these themes, the strong script and directing, the music, and the acting make this one of the most enjoyable and evocative biographical films I have seen.
Recommended for everyone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The year 2004 was the year of the biopic with no less than four
pictures tackling real events, real people, with varying degrees of
critical praise. Of the four pictures to make it to the race to the
Oscars in early 2005 (KINSEY, THE AVIATOR, HOTEL RWANDA, and, RAY), RAY
became the big winner of the night as the acting award went to Jamie
Foxx for his portrayal of R & B genius Ray Charles.
And it was well-deserved despite that Leonardo diCaprio came close and Liam Neeson wasn't even nominated. What made Foxx the winner was that the other two were playing relatively obscure eccentrics, Ray Charles was still making music right up until his death in 2004 and by then there wasn't a soul who didn't know at least one song that Charles' had penned. It did help that Jamie Foxx rose well above the movie -- itself as a whole somewhat weak and often looking like it wouldn't be out of place as a TV biopic -- and his portrayal is detailed as it's ferocious. He has the delicate assignment which is to embody a person down to nuances, and once the crisis of Ray's addiction to heroin hits a head, Foxx pulls out all the stops and it isn't hard to imagine the real Ray actually going through such a painful ordeal.
The low point of the film is how it spends a little too much time in detailing Ray's relationship with women. Like THE AVIATOR, Taylor Hackford wishes to establish that Ray had this turbulent life, a product of his own demons and his entry into success at a time when being black and successful brought a huge amount of baggage. Of the women, the only one to succeed bringing real life is Sharen Warren as Ray's mother. Hers is a difficult role since she is alone on screen with the child actor playing young Ray but her facial and body language is gut-wrenching, especially at the moment she must relinquish her maternity to have Ray find his way around the house. Such intensity of emotion, to stand there and watch your blind son crawl across a room and having to force him to have this rude awakening into independence. A beautiful performance, and one which should have been acknowledged.
A fantastic counterpoint to RAY is the featured music. Anyone who knows R & B will enjoy the early recordings of Ray's radio hits as much as his later ones which would bring him to the forefront of popular music, and Jamie Foxx virtually steals the show as he performs the songs as Ray. That alone will live on even when the movie in itself is little more than a stiff biopic. I would have, though, loved it if they would have used his last Adult Contemporary hit from 1993, "Sing my Song for You" in the closing credits. After all, it is Ray Charles, a performer who had a fierce dedication to his art.
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