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Jamie IS Ray
Ryan Ellis19 December 2004
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.
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Unexpectedly Brilliant Performance
8ofem29 October 2004
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.
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Jamie Foxx's Tour de Force
nycritic11 January 2006
Warning: 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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One incredible performance, one worthwhile movie
bmcdannell1 February 2005
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!
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Phenomenal biographical film with intense and memorable performances
mstomaso28 June 2005
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.
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Raves for Ray!!
Terry Williams24 November 2004
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.
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Great movie - love the music
Lori3 January 2005
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.
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Not a Ray fan? No problem. Cinema at its best
agvii22 November 2004
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.
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The Memorable Good & Bad Of Ray
ccthemovieman-124 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Jamie Foxx does a fine job of impersonating the famous blues/soul/country singer Ray Charles. To the film's credit, it shows both the good and the bad regarding Charles' character and the choices he made, both personally and professionally.

This is a slick-looking film that provides you with a rich feel of the periods in which the story takes place. Not only does it look good, it sounds good. I only wish there was more music in here. When it's inserted, it's fabulous but there isn't enough of it.

Assuming, at least for review purposes, that the story was true, I was impressed and disappointed with Charles, meaning the story left some memorable impressions since I'm writing this 16 months after viewing it. Main impressions include:

GOOD - Re-living Ray's immense talent and his foresight to step out and take chances musically, such as going "country" for awhile. The man had supreme confidence in himself but didn't come across as arrogant about it. Also memorable was showing him beating his heroin addiction - with no help! That's just amazing.

BAD - I also remember through this film how easily hooked Ray got in the first place and disappointed he was so unfaithful to his wife. A really sad comment was that his wife was more upset with him for missing his kid's Little League games than she was for all the cheating he was doing on her, even fathering a child with a member of his singing group.

The only negative I had with the filmmakers was the overemphasis of his problems being blamed on one early childhood event, the accidental death of his brother. That tragedy was used as cop-out for all Ray's misdoings as an adult, which is another example of a culture in which people refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Note: There is an extended version with the DVD but word has it that it is so poorly edited that it's not worth watching, so stick with the "theatrical version."
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What a spectacular movie!
goodenlana13 December 2004
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.
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rebus218 November 2004
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.
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By the Book, But It's a Good Book
LAKERS3415 April 2005
RAY is pretty much Hollywood Formula; The story of one man's struggle and ultimate success... There are the cursory scenes showing the struggles, temptations, successes, and heartbreaks. What makes this film stand out above it all are the performances, and the fact that Ray Charles Robinson's story, no matter how formulaic, is pretty dog-gone interesting...

Jamie Foxx turns in one of the great performances of this or any year - His Ray is real in the sense that we just accept the fact that yes, we are watching Ray Charles. This is acting at its best. Those in supporting roles are equally strong - conveying all the emotion, support, and deceit that surrounded a man like Ray. The key components of Ray's childhood, which affect his choices, both good and bad as a man, are told hauntingly through flashback; the Florida landscape looks beautiful through the eye of the lens (Great cinematography!)...The screenplay is faithful to RAY's life; there is no sugarcoating - RAY looks unflinchingly in the mirror and makes no apologies.

My wife was not eager to see Ray...When I pulled the DVD and fired it up in our room, her first reaction was "Ahh Gee...do we have to?" She got up and did a few things while the opening sequence rolled with credits. When she came back in, I put the film to the beginning and told her, "If you're not interested by the time the opening credits end, we'll turn it off." Needless to say, we both sat through the whole thing riveted, with my wife saying Ray is now one of her favorites... Strongly Recommended!
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paint me a picture with your lyrics
mxracer15726 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
simply stated, incredible. from what I knew about ray, he was always in a good mood. I only say interviews and such. I know that no one can really know the inside of any man. a rare acting job was done by jamie foxx. he amazed me with his acting ability. the writing was excellent in this film. i wish there had been more shown about his interaction with several friends and family members. the music road does often throw many obstacles in ones path. with talent, you can get anything you want. this film shows that. from drug use to adultery, this film paints a horrid glimpse of Mr. Charles and makes him look like he wasn't as great as I once thought he was. to me he appeared to be the cleanest man alive in music. little did I know what was the truth. jamie foxx is a comedian and a musician. but in this movie, he breaks grounds I never imagined he could do. a solid film, one I am pleased to add to my collection!
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One of the best biographical movies I've ever seen!
Browwn_Shugar2 February 2005
Jamie Foxx was the epitome of Ray Charles. After a few moments you stop seeing a film and see a biography played by the great man himself. Ray Charles was truly a genius of music and the movie excellently depicted that. No one has ever or will ever write, play, or record music like this musical giant. When he passed the flesh, the world lost one of it's greatest American heroes. As far as the movie, the fact that Jamie Foxx received a classical music scholarship to college and could play like Ray was an asset to the director. What could be better than that? You don't have to have a "double" play piano and then try to split the screen from someone else's hands to Jamie's face. It worked beautifully. I loved the fact that it also picked up how difficult Ray was. He wasn't always a nice man. You didn't also root for him. He was a drug addict, a womanizer, and sometimes just plain hard-headed. But I guess that's what made him genius so I can't fault him for that. I pick Jamie for Best Actor!
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'Ray' lives on
Abhishek Bandekar27 February 2005
'Ray' lives on

Ray Dir- Taylor Hackford Cast- Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Curtis Armstrong and Sharon Warren. Written by- Taylor Hackford and James L. White. Rating- ***

"Hit the road Jack, and don't come back…no more, no more, no more, NO MORE!" Who would've thought that this immortal line that has almost become a remedial mantra for broken relationships in popular culture was conceived over a lovers' brawl! Ray Charles was a genius. And if there was one thing that he knew, breathed and lived for; it was music. So in a lifetime that comprised acute poverty, a desperate struggle with darkness, guilt, drugs and painful affairs; Ray still found moments when inspiration hit him out of nowhere and words and notes took their own shape to form an instant eternal classic!

There are some lives that deserve to be transformed on the silver screen. Ray Charles's life was one of them. It almost comes as a shock to learn that this project had no studio-backing until it was completed! And that backing probably came after the initial screenings where Jamie Foxx's performance was lauded and predicted as a surefire Oscar winner in hushed voices. Jamie Foxx as Ray almost convinces us that it is indeed Ray Charles performing on screen and not an actor impersonating! From the crooked all-knowing smile to the bent gait of not so much a handicapped but a man dancing through his demons, Foxx captures every essence of the actual Ray Charles. Ray was a complicated man. He never demanded sympathy and very rarely showed it himself. An astute businessman, he ensured his success at any cost, sometimes at the price of losing his loved ones. He never apologized for his philandering ways and always maintained that he loved his family, which we are convinced he did. He liked sex; it was as simple as that! But beneath all, there also existed a Ray that was afraid of darkness. Imagine the horrors of a blind man afraid of darkness! His fear was because of his guilt. Ray was convinced that he was the reason for his brother's death, and his whole life was spent trying to redeem himself. Ray was a maverick who fused gospel with jazz, an unheard blasphemous practice in the 50's. But his intentions weren't to instigate. He was simply practicing the only way he knew of getting close to God!

It is hard to capture such an eventful life as that of Ray, and that is perhaps where the movie fails. We are never really allowed to get close to Ray as a person. We know him only as much as we see him. His relationships, especially with Margie Hendricks(Regina King), aren't explored in detail. And the script barely passes over Della Bea(Kerry Washington), Ray's wife, who everyone knows was a rock by his side. And the biggest blunder of all is the rushed, almost abrupt climax. It's as if the director suddenly realized he was out of stock and called for a pack-up! Nonetheless, 'Ray' is definitely recommended for a flawless performance from Jamie Foxx and an able stellar ensemble. The songs and age create a sense of nostalgia, and we get a genuine feeling that the film is made with sincerity.

  • Abhishek Bandekar

Note- 'Ray' is nominated in six categories at this year's Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor(Jamie Foxx).

Rating- ***

* Poor ** Average *** Good **** Very Good ***** Excellent

19th February, 2005
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Hit the road, Hack.
FilmSnobby24 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
By-the-numbers, Oscar-hungry biopic about the late, great singer Ray Charles. There is one -- exactly one -- great scene in *Ray*. It occurs during a flashback to Charles' youth, after the boy become completely blind. Running into the sharecropper house which he shares with his mother, he trips over a chair and sprawls on the floor. He cries out for his mother; she, in keeping with her philosophy that a person should "stand on their own two feet", observes silently and pensively from the kitchen, waiting to see if the boy can fall back on his own resources. The boy proves to be up to the challenge, using his ears and memory to locate a kettle on a stove, a nearby fire-pit, the grass blowing in the wind outside of a window, the scuttling of a cricket across the plank-board floor.

The movie pauses, here; it expands; it breathes -- even if for only 40 seconds. The scene is a much-needed respite from Taylor Hackford's otherwise noisy film. By "noisy" I'm not referring to the music, which is, of course, excellent. I AM referring to the sound effects (big BOOMS! preceding yet another flashback) and the inane dialog ("I'm speaking to you as a FRIEND, Ray," etc.). On the visual side, Hackford is equally and pointlessly flashy: sepia-colored filters over the camera lenses during the flashbacks; whirling-dervish 360s from the camera-crane, etc. etc. All the modern amenities. What a horrible cinematic style is displayed in *Ray*! -- a style all-too-common in wanna-be "important" movies from the past decade or so (Scorsese's *Aviator* is stylistically very similar to this movie). These gimmicks are employed to obfuscate the cliché-ridden screenplay. Some of us won't be fooled.

Some of us also are not quite prepared to accept Jamie Foxx's performance as anything more than superb mimicry. Granted, Foxx eerily resembles Ray Charles: he walks like Charles, talks like Charles, and even twitches like Charles. Foxx's imitation of the singer during live performance is technically perfect. I'm not begrudging Mr. Foxx his Oscar; he deserved it. (It was a pretty weak field this year, anyway.) But one wonders if Foxx really UNDERSTANDS Charles. The actor does achieve one great moment when he insists on trying out the smack that his band-mates are shooting up: he registers, if only for a brief moment, a disgust at the unfairness of being blind and a life of darkness. The movie seems to want to dramatize the struggle within Charles between the bright salvation of music and the oblivion of heroin, with his blindness as the battleground between those two compulsions. But the damn movie just won't take the time: it bounces along from triumph to triumph, never really pausing for any insight into the man. One has to STRETCH to find the dramatic tension; one must supply the drama FOR the movie. One must, in other words, imagine a better movie than this one.

In its rush toward a glorious conclusion, *Ray* introduces, then dodges, several excellent ideas for a movie: his early days on the "Chitlin Circuit"; his bold musical innovations for the Atlantic label; the problem of his addiction to heroin; the inevitable artistic compromises attendant upon overwhelming success; the man's importance to the Civil Rights struggle (touched on in the movie for, oh, about 3 minutes of screen-time), and much more. The filmmakers are too lazy to focus on any one of these elements. Two-and-a-half hours of watching a man overcome one adversity after another may make us feel good, but such a movie is not necessarily a grand work of art. This sort of approach certainly provides no deeper insight into the film's subject -- and shouldn't insight be the real goal of a movie like this? If I had wanted a laundry-list of Ray Charles' accomplishments, I'd have simply Googled him.

3 stars out of 10 -- the extra 2 stars strictly for the music.
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A glimpse into the life of an extraordinary musician
Chrysanthepop24 September 2007
'Ray' tells the wonderful story of multi-talented musician, the late Ray Charles, played flawlessly by Jamie Foxx. Not only do we forget that it's Foxx (thanks to the uncanny resemblance and mastered gestures and voice) but all we see is the character Ray Charles. The actor has put a lot of hard work and his effort has obviously paid off.

The supporting cast are exceptional. Whether it's the seductive Aunjanue Ellis, the feisty Regina King, the charismatic Keri Washington or the enigmatic Sharon Warren, they're all standouts.

'Ray' starts with the musician's early days starting out in the music business until the late 60's. We are presented with flashbacks of his childhood, his battle with his inner demons, his unstable love-life and his love for music. Director Taylor Hackford tells the story in a very engaging way.

The superb cinematography not only takes us from place to place but also from one time to another. The audience may feel as if they're a silent witness to Ray's journey. The soundtrack is all the legendary Ray's immortal voice and it brilliantly echoes Ray's feelings.

Lastly, this is a worthy film about an extraordinary musician and his love for music. Like Keri Washington tells Foxx in the movie, 'There's one thing you love more than anything in the world and that's music'.
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"Ray"'s Heart Still Chained By Uncertain Direction
Ben2 December 2004
The lights go down, the screen goes black, and the strains of 'What'd I Say' light up as fingers furiously bounce across a piano's keyboard and my toes start tapping. Smoke billows, and we see a pair of black sunglasses reflect a master perfecting his trade. Then, suddenly, at the height of the song's excitement, we're yanked out of the sizzling darkness and thrown into a dusty, bright North Florida locale. The tease of Ray's thrilling opening being cut short by a quiet, story-building scene is a theme that runs constant throughout director Taylor Hackford's realized lifelong dream. Every time the film gains momentum and begins to reel us in, Hackford seems nervous and abruptly shows us something else, usually something not nearly as intriguing.

Ray is a film about the dizzying highs and terrifying lows of the life of Ray Charles (Jamie Foxx), starting at his early days as a traveling musician to his victory over drug addiction, all the while using fantasies and flashbacks to reveal heartbreaking mysteries about his childhood. Right off the bat, the cleverness and deceiving simplicity of Charles, born Ray Charles Robinson, is shown as he weasels his way into a ride with a gruff bus driver by using his handicap and a little bit of embellishment. This cleverness is a Ray staple, and throughout the film, Foxx portrays Ray as sort of a genius man-child, always able to charm and sweet talk his way into and out of different types of trouble. This trouble usually comes in the form of women, wedged between music and drugs as one of the three escapes in his life. The central women in Ray's story range from the dangerously jealous Mary Anne (Aunjanue Ellis), the brittle and needy Margie (Regina King, who mimics the boisterous harmonies in 'Night & Day' perfectly), and the strong and secure Della Bea, excellently played by Kerry Washington as the necessary cornerstone to Ray's ever-fragile foundation of success. The journey taken by each woman through the life of the man she loves is painful and well presented, taking a seat in the 'Pro' column of the film.

In fact, the performances throughout the entire film are exquisite, from young Ray, whose confusion and detached innocence are portrayed wonderfully by C.J. Sanders, to Ray's mother Aretha (Sharon Warren), who so obviously planted the seeds of necessity for a strong woman early in Ray's life. And, of course, there is the performance of Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, the acting gig of a lifetime. After seeing him in such material as Booty Call and his sit-com, I really, really did not want to like Jamie Foxx, who just seemed like the usual unoriginal comedian with the funny faces and the clichéd jokes. But after this film, as well as Michael Mann's love letter to Los Angeles, Collateral, my foot is in my mouth. I can honestly say Foxx has grown into one fine actor. In fact, his portrayal of Ray is the best acting job of the year, along with Jim Caviezel's torturous role as Jesus in The Passion Of The Christ and Tom Hanks' wonderfully complex take on the misplaced immigrant in The Terminal. Throughout the film, Jamie Foxx recreates every little nuance and characteristic of the man, and once you see him jamming out a tune, you'll do a double take. The term 'spitting image' does not do the sight justice.

So the acting is wonderful, and is only enhanced by the excellent soundtrack, of course supplied entirely by the music of the legend that is Ray Charles. Almost every classic is included, although I didn't notice any of 'Crying Time', one of my personal favorites. I dare you not to smile once you see that orchestra start up 'Georgia On My Mind', and I dare you not to tap your fingers along to 'Unchain My Heart'. If I was to grade the film purely on the acting and the music, Ray would be a surefire winner, but sadly, that isn't the case.

The thing that brings the film down to a less grandiose level is the aforementioned direction of Taylor Hackford, who never seems entirely confident in himself or his material. As with many biographical films, the director never seems to settle on a single theme. The issues addressed in the film include Ray's drug addiction, his womanizing, the pain of his familial loss, his relationship with record labels, and his relationship with his management team and band. Although all these issues are presented, many of them are dropped or not entirely explored by the time an awkward and overly rushed ending arrives. The ending is representative of the entire picture, as it is incongruent and doesn't quite piece together as well as it should. (I won't even get started on the dream sequence that gives Ray the ability of sight, as well as takes away his trademark walk, apparently.) The film suffers from inconsistent editing and confused visuals: while some establishing shots are grainy stock footage of 1950's America, some are just regularly shot scenes that match the look of the rest of the film. The irregularity that runs rampant in the film is unsettling and makes things jumbled and unsatisfactory to look at. Hackford and his cinematographer Pawel Edelman (The Pianist) have momentary flourishes of brilliance, however. Take for example the scene where Ray and Quincy Jones discuss the racial climate of the south in the 60's: The setting is an outdoor barbecue, and Ray is surrounded by smoke and particles of dust dancing in the sunlight. It's a visually enthralling scene, but it's merely a high point in a film that doesn't offer much balance for the eye.

All in all, Ray is a fine piece of film-making, but not because of anything presented from behind the camera. An average screenplay by Hackford and first timer James L. White is turned into something extraordinary by the cast, especially by Jamie Foxx, who is sure to be recognized once awards season is in full effect. I recommend Ray to everyone, because it does hit some interesting keys when it comes to the struggles of handicaps and how they affect relationships with loved ones, business partners, and God himself. Not only that, but it showcases some of the best music you'll hear in your entire life – just don't expect to see anything like you'll hear.

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Fine toe-tapping tribute to a musical genius
Barky445 November 2004
"Ray" tells the story of musical genius Ray Charles. Son of a single sharecropper mom, he started out dirt-poor in Northern Florida and became a national (er, international) icon. Along the way he transformed music by mixing jazz, gospel, blues, pop, country, and soul. He almost single-handedly tore down the walls separating genres and taught everyone how to mix it up.

I really enjoyed this film. It is far superior to other films about musicians. The music itself does not stop, highlights of his career arc wonderfully throughout the tale, acting not as a musical backdrop but as a storyteller, a Greek chorus of sorts. Every song is put in context, telling us another part of Ray's life. Music was Ray Charles' life, and music puts the life in "Ray".

Jamie Foxx was surprisingly good in this film. In the earliest scene involving Foxx he cracks a joke to a bus driver. For a moment you see the real Jamie Foxx, comedian and performer from "In Living Colour". But that is the last time you see Jamie, for the rest of the piece you only see Ray. This is a great tribute to the actor's talent.

The supporting cast is terrific as well, again so good you don't even notice it. You only see the people in Ray's life (for good or evil). There has been talk of Jamie Foxx getting an Oscar nod for his performance, I think Sharon Warren, who plays his mother Aretha, deserves at least consideration in the supporting actress role.

This film is especially appealing to amateur students of musical history (such as myself). I liked the portrayals of behind-the-scenes legends Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records and eventual producer great Quincy Jones. It was just an interesting time and fascinating to see on screen.

Overall, a great film. My one and only beef, and I am loathe to point out any flaws, is in the pacing. There is a patch about 1/2 way through where the story doesn't seem to move, I think it could have used a tighter cut, perhaps 2:15 instead of 2:30

9 out of 10
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Highlights of the Biography of a Great American Artist
Claudio Carvalho8 September 2005
A couple of days ago I saw the awesome "House of Sand and Fog" and I was impressed with the amazing performance of Ben Kingsley in the lead role. I decided to see "Ray", trying to understand how and why Ben Kingsley did not win the Oscar of Best Lead Actor. After watching Jamie Foxx in the role of Ray Charles, I agree with the Academy: he really deserved to be awarded. I like Ray Charles, I was not his fan, but it is amazing the resemblance of Jamie Foxx with him. The film is completely supported by Jamie Foxx, who participates of most of the shootings, and his movements on stage looks like as if he was a reincarnation of Ray Charles. With regard to the story, I saw the extended version on DVD, too long but also very pleasant, with many beautiful songs and scenes showing mainly a junkie Ray Charles. My greatest surprise was to find that Ray Charles was heroine addicted, and how he treated his own family. The presentation of his childhood through fragmented flashbacks was the boring part of the movie. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Ray"
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Great performances and music squandered in mediocre story
filmbuff-362 December 2004
At its heart, 'Ray' is a great story stuck in a mediocre film. There is undeniable power on screen, and an interesting tale of personal struggle and worldwide triumph resonating in every frame, but the film is so jumpy and driven by set pieces that it unfortunately never comes together in the end.

Ray Charles Robinson (Jamie Foxx) has a lot going against him when he first arrives in Seattle to play at a seedy dive in the late 1940s. A blind, black piano player from Florida, he encounters adversity wherever he goes. His manager shortchanges him, other people refuse to hang out with him because of his handicap, and he has to constantly be aware of his surroundings.

But his music grabs people. He feels the beat every time he sits at the piano, and the house always comes alive, no matter what the size of the venue. Working his way out of juke joints and onto a tour, Ray is advised to drop his last name and just go by Ray Charles, and soon his star rises. But he isn't happy.

Haunted by the memories of watching his younger brother drown when he was still a child, he soon turns to drugs to escape his feelings of guilt. Discovered by Atlantic Records producers Ahmet Ertegun (Curtis Armstrong) and Jerry Wexler (Richard Schiff), Charles soon is given the freedom to write his own music and a phenomenon is born. Mixing Gospel style (but not the Gospel attitude he jokes) with R&B, his place in history is soon set.

Along the way, he marries Houston singer Della Beatrice Howard (Kerry Washington) who catches his fancy. But she alone can't satisfy him. Time away on the road and the temptations of showbiz overwhelm Charles, and he's soon keeping a lover in tow. Back up singer Margie Hendricks (Regina King) plays his most troublesome other woman, putting up a façade of business only while singing to hits like 'Hit the Road, Jack' but trying to manipulate him behind the scenes.

We get the sense in 'Ray' that Charles was a talented performer who was hampered by his own feelings of inadequacy, and the film is wise to show the quieter, more reflective moments of his life. But we mostly discover that his take no prisoners style of business and recording practices was a direct result of his mother, who taught him from an early age never to let his disability to him into a cripple.

Foxx doesn't just play Charles; he embodies the man in every way. He brings the musician to life in a way that is neither synthetic nor a caricature. Charles lives on screen through Foxx, who has made quite a transition from goofy skits on 'In Living Color' to a powerful dramatic actor over the course of the last few years.

Other performances range from mediocre to adequate, but King manages to bring life into her role. She's not unsympathetic as the woman who wants to be more than Charles' sex interest when he's away from home. And as Charles' first producers, Armstrong and Schiff manage to make a slight impression, although their roles in the film are rarely more than just ancillary and then forgotten once Charles moves on to bigger fish.

But 'Ray' never quite captures the right tone. It wants to be all things; a music biopic, a study of struggle and a life affirming treatise, and does all of them half-hearted. We never learn of Charles' first wife Elieen, and his frequent acts of adultery are just simplified into two women. The music is the movie's real saving grace, but that probably owes more to the myth of Charles then the testament to him here. What remains is a fascinating but flawed look at a man who himself was fascinating but flawed, and stands as a nice elegy to the life of the late, great performer.

6 out of 10 stars. The actors and music make it worth watching, but the story's so jumpy it feel like a rhapsody, not a melody.
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Nicely Made Biopic With Only A Few Flaws
christian12312 July 2005
Ray is a well made picture full of great music and fine performances. Jamie Foxx plays the late great singer-songwriter Ray Charles in a bio drama from director Taylor Hackford. As he learns to cope with his blindness, Charles' career was plagued with drugs, discrimination and marital indiscretions, although his wife Della was there to help him through it all. Ray Charles sure is very talented and very interesting so making a biography as a film needed to be handled well. Fortunately, the film turned out to be better then expected. The best thing about Ray is Jamie Foxx as Ray. He gave a really good and moving performance. I used to think he was very average but he certainly proved me wrong. He really did deserve to win that Oscar for best actor. The rest of the cast also gave good performances. Kerry Washington plays Ray's wife and I think she did a fine job. Regina King usually appears in comedies such as Legally Blonde 2 and Daddy Day Care. Her performance in this film though was very good and it really surprised me. She should start picking better roles then appearing in Miss Congeniality 2. Those three really stood out from everyone else but the rest of the supporting cast also gave good performances. Taylor Hackford did a fine job of directing and makes up for making Proof of Life. Ray has all the biopic elements to make this film real and interesting. Ray covers overcoming hard times, drugs, relationship problems and everything else. There are some problems with the film though, like it does have a lot of clichés. The ending was moving and sad but at the same time it was kind of cheesy. The film is kind of sad to watch at times as Ray's life had a lot of tragic moments like when his younger brother dies. The music is great and its really nice to listen too. Its also nice to see how Ray came up with all songs. The running time of 150 minutes goes by pretty fast as the film does a good job of keeping the viewer watching closely and listening closely. While I like Ray a lot, I think that The Aviator is the better film of the two. In the end, this a strong film and its defiantly was worthy of its best picture nomination. Rating 7/10, worth checking out.
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The film isn't nearly as good as Foxx's performance
FilmOtaku17 February 2005
Taylor Hackford's film "Ray" is a biopic about singer Ray Charles, a man who, despite becoming blind at a young age, ends up with a very illustrious career that made him a legend. The film centers around his film career, but also touches on his bouts of drug abuse, his many acts of infidelity and some of his psychological inner demons.

Jamie Foxx did an excellent job as Ray Charles. Frankly, (and this is my own fault because I'm a freak for award shows – since I don't watch soaps or the OC I'm allowed that guilty pleasure) I was so sick of Jamie Foxx's lack of humility and grandstanding while accepting his many acting awards that I was really curious to see how deserving he is of the accolades he has received. It very quickly became obvious that the reviews of his performance and applause he has been receiving was warranted. It has been said so much about Foxx that it is almost cliché at this point, but he really did "become" Ray Charles. His mannerisms, speaking voice and even his physical presence were simply astounding. Frankly, I feel like Kerry Washington (who played his long-suffering wife Della) and/or Regina King (Margie, one of Charles' many affairs) were also overlooked for a nod. They both gave very compelling performances that are deserving of recognition.

Having said all of that, it's too bad that the rest of the film could not have been as good as the actors in it. Hackford's direction was okay, but it wasn't anything great over even all that good. Even as an admirer of Charles' music, I still felt like this was a big love fest. True, the subject of his addiction and womanizing was addressed, but it wasn't remotely compelling. Charles was a damaged man, and a real son-of-a-bitch sometimes, but I really thought this was glossed over in favor of more positive aspects of his life. The music featured was predictably excellent, but a scene that featured the inception of one of my personal favorite Charles songs ("Hit the Road, Jack") turned into one of the several corny moments of the film. Personally, I thought the film was mediocre at best, but since it is being hailed as a great film by so many, and because it is up for a Best Picture nomination, etc., I have to say that I really feel it doesn't deserve all of the accolades it has received. Perhaps reverence for Ray Charles is being factored into these glowingly positive reviews, but personally, when I separate my feelings for his music and the film, I feel the film really comes up short.

Of the 4 films I have now seen that are up for Best Picture at the Oscars, "Ray" is the only one so far that is not even deserving of the nomination. In a year where films like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" are being left out, there is no room for mediocrity, and "Ray" is nothing more than an average picture. If you want to see a good biopic about another music legend, check out "What's Love Got to Do With It." It's a lot better than this film. 5/10 --Shelly
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Music and Foxx's great performance triumph over mediocre script
CharlieB-54 February 2005
There are two movies here: One is Ray Charles on stage, the other is Ray Charles in the rest of his life. The movie begins with Ray (Charles) Robinson leaving Georgia to move to Seattle, and his earlier life is told in flashbacks. The flashbacks are effective in showing the childhood traumas and lessons that drive Ray, but I was not engaged. Even Ray's battles with heroin feel a little off-key. Everything is tied up into a nice little package, and you know that you are watching an authorized biopic.

But who cares? The music is worth the journey. Ray recreated some of his earlier music, and remastered other material. You watch Ray's development from a Nat King Cole wannabe into a man who broke all the barriers in the music industry. With Jamie Foxx's incredible performance, it works. You absolutely feel you are watching the young Ray Charles, it is almost impossible to imagine a better performance. The music gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes.

Jamie Foxx's performance and Ray's music easily overcome the script's limitations.
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I am ambivalent, to say the least.
lambiepie-230 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw Ray when it first came out. Why? Partly, because of the advertising hype, secondly because I just loved the heck outa Ray Charles's music. But not being around when his biggest things in music and his life happened, I wanted to learn more about the man's life. And in this film, I did. His addiction to drugs was something I didn't know, and the film let us know.

But here's the thing, while this was a decent autobiographical film...I cannot say it was a "great" film. I've seen "Malcolm X" and was blown away. Same with "What's Love Got To Do With It" and "Bird". The performances of each of those films was outstanding. I wasn't just drawn into the main characters in those films - who did incredible jobs - but to those around them as well. That helps make a picture to me.

I felt that at some parts of this film was shallow and heavy handed for emotional appeal. And yes, I'll admit at certain parts of the film I almost fell asleep. And the film was too long. And the film left out several "other" important details of Ray Charles life that would have made the film flow better. The film got "choppy" to me in certain parts. And the film seemed to end with a whimper, not a bang - certain parts, including the ending played like a tacked on "Lifetime" cable network movie to me. I expect more outa cinema.

So -- where does my ambivalence come in? With Jamie Foxx's performance. Overall, he did -- okay. Not Denzel Washington's Malcolm X or Angela Bassett's Tina Turner's spectacular, but...okay.

Sorry folks, but to me, there were several points in the film where I saw Jamie Foxx's interpretation of Ray Charles, and in others - thanks to the wonderful camera angles and lighting - he "looked" like Ray Charles. But I paid attention to the ... acting. An actor has to make you believe he IS the character he is playing. Not make a caricature of the character. Did I believe Jamie Foxx was Ray on the screen? Sometimes yes -- sometimes no.

Did Jamie Foxx deserve a Golden Globe? You betcha. Does he deserve an Oscar...? Depends on who's he's up against. He's got a few major competitors there, and he might just edge them out. But then again...maybe not. If Jamie Foxx doesn't win, I will not stand up and say "he was robbed". I wont particularly feel that he had been.

This was a decent film with decent performances and a decent story. A "great" autobiographical film of the late Ray Charles? No. Somewhere out there, I feel there IS a great film about Ray Charles just waiting to be made, and an actor that will blow you completely away in doing so.
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