Before the Beatles, there was Ray Charles. Staring Jamie Foxx, straight off his excellent performance in Collateral, as the man himself, with Kerry Washington as his wife, and Aunjanue Ellis and Regina King as his back-up singers/mistresses. Ray spans the start of Ray Charles’ career in the fifties until the mid-seventies, with plenty of reflection on his childhood, how he went blind, his childhood poverty, and rise to fame.
At just over two and half hours Ray is a reel too long and you notice. The film feels episodic, as it flashes back and forth from Ray’s childhood to adulthood. At times I was able to pre-empt its continual use of fade-to-white or fade-to-black approach, giving it look and feel of a made-for-TV movie.
Ray had me bopping in my seat with the original music recordings and performances. Jamie Foxx does a brilliant job lip-synching and creating the character that is Ray Charles: heroin addict, womanizer and musical genius. The script by Taylor Hackford and James L. White tries to reflect the good and the bad of Ray Charles’ life, but is sugarcoated and refuses to delve deeper into his psyche. The tribute and tacked-on ending feels rushed and left me somewhat disappointed.
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