This is a very good movie that houses an exceptionally great performance by Jamie Fox as music legend Ray Charles. I must confess that as a genre, the biopic is not my favorite, especially of figures as well known as Ray Charles. We usually receive in such films distorted portraits of them, or undeserved adulation. RAY is one of the more balanced biopics I have seen. Ray Charles is presented as a musical genius who had managed to overcome physical disabilities that would have stopped most others, but it doesn't attempt to mute the serious and unflattering personal moral problems he had with drugs and his exploitative treatment of women. Nor is he revealed as a moral saint or loving person. Though pleasant with others for the most part, Ray is shown as a proud, independent, and slightly self-absorbed, a bit selfish in his treatment of women. As a result, Ray Charles emerges in the film as a believable human being, capable of unfortunate decisions, but also extraordinary music and the occasional powerful moral stand, such as when he refuses to perform in a racially segregated crowd in a venue in Georgia. In fact, the film is built around three foci: his early childhood when he witnessed the death of his younger brother and gradually lost his sight; his musical career from 1948 until the mid-1960s; and his heroin addiction. The film ends with his overcoming his heroin addiction, which also-as numerous music critics have noted--corresponds to the end of the peak of his career as a creative musical performer. Charles continued to make albums after getting off heroin, but all of the great songs that we associate with him were written and recorded while on heroin. For the last forty years of his career, his sets consisted almost entirely of songs he made famous in the fifties and early sixties, with covers of songs by other musicians. There has been a long debate as to whether his addiction somehow aided his musical creativity, but even if so, no one would have wished him to continue to endanger his health and life.
Jamie Fox will without any possible doubt receive an Oscar nomination for this performance. This is considerably more than a good impersonation of Charles: it is almost as if Fox channels him. As much as I loved other biopics of music legends like THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY or WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT, throughout each I was conscious that Gary Busey was playing Buddy Holly and Angela Bassett playing Tina Turner. I completely forgot that Jamie Fox was playing Ray Charles, and despite being quite familiar with him, imagined that I was actually watching Charles onscreen. Yes, he does a killer impersonation of Charles, but he manages that first on top of that provides an amazing dramatic performance. This is great acting, not merely a great impersonation. The only performance of recent years of an actor portraying a prominent entertainer as superb as this is Robert Downey in CHAPLIN.
I also really loved the look of the film. Since it ended in the mid-1960s, the entire film was essentially a period film. There was a sense of visual veracity from beginning to end. I loved the cars, the clothes (especially the ties! - am I alone in thinking that the 1950s was the great decade for neckties?), the interior decors, the furniture. The scenes in the shanty town where Charles was a child were very effective.
The cast aside from Fox was quite strong, made up mainly of relatively unknown performers. There were many other things to enjoy about the film. Of course, the music is absolutely sensational, consisting either of remasters of original Ray Charles's recordings, or new recordings for which Charles provided the vocals. I also loved the relationship in the film between Charles and Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records. There is nothing of the stereotypical relationship between artist and executives that invests so many of the stories of musicians in the 1950s and 1960s. Ertegun is rightfully remembered as one of the truly great figures in the recording industry, someone who was in it more for the music than for the money, and who treated his artists with a degree of respect that was too frequently absent. The film does a good job of presenting Charles's dilemma: ABC-Monument made him an offer that he simply couldn't refuse, yet at the same time we are all aware that Charles was, in a way, screwing Atlantic over by leaving them for ABC-Monument. All in all, I loved this warts and all approach to the subject matter. There is absolutely no question that Ray Charles was one of the most astonishing performers of the fifties and sixties, and doing all he did despite his blindness is an amazing saga. He truly was a genius, even if he was a somewhat flawed person. But you have to love the way that he managed to overcome his personal shortcomings to become not merely one of the most successful but one of the most beloved musical performers of his age.
I like "Ray." The music is strong, using Ray Charles' own tracks for both background and performance shots. The storyline is complex, flashing back to Charles' youth as he reflected on the loss of his eyesight and the death of his brother.
From his days as a child in a poor rural community, through his early days as an unknown musician struggling to get a fair deal, to his mid-career with management problems, affairs, hits, and drugs, and then, finally, as a one of our national heroes, we see Ray Charles in full color.
We learn how he manipulated women, cheated on his wife, became addicted to heroin, found his sound, got his name, and learned to work aggressively as his own musician. He deals with racism at first by avoiding it, and then quickly, takes a harsh stand, shaming the bigots and segregationists. Now, in a state where he was once banned from playing, his work, "Georgia on My Mind" is now the state song.
Biopics of celebrities are difficult to describe because of the chronology required to produce the movies. People don't live out plots written by screenwriters, but lives that have events that do not always make sense. Ray Charles' life didn't always make sense, but he lived it.
We have two views of Ray Charles. One is as a fighter, working hard against adversity to become the musician we now know. The other is as a womanizing addict who used his charm, position and trust of his wife to diminish all that was good about him. He eventually beats the drugs, holds onto his marriage, but these failures brought down my respect of him.
Jamie Foxx never impressed me before this. I found his comedy more off-color than I prefer, and expected that his version of Ray Charles would be mediocre. I heard the hype that his performance was Oscar-worthy, and watched the movie with the eyes of a skeptic. Now, I am impressed.
Jamie Foxx has a new fan. I hope he gets roles that allow him to shine like he does in "Ray."
The DVD for "Ray" adds to the movie. Normally, a DVD brings little extra that is interesting, but watching Jamie Foxx and Ray Charles interact was touching, as was hearing Foxx describe his experience in learning the role. We learn Foxx not only can play piano, but is trained at a high level. Those are his hands on the keys, and not movie magic. He respected Charles and the difficulty of playing an icon, and earned Charles' respect in the process.
on February 7, 2005
Does anyone suspect that Helen Keller edited this film?
Shame on the director for allowing the ruination of this great masterpiece in the extended form!
GREAT FILM RUINED- BY BY BAD EDITING.
Here is what others are saying: "The big disappointment for me was buying the Limited Edition version with the extended edition of the movie. 25 minutes of additional footage has been added back in for the extended version. Like someone posted earlier, When viewing the "extended" version my player had to pause every time it went to a "deleted scene." It had to pause again when it went back to the theatrical version. I have other disks in my collection which have extended versions with deleted scenes cut into the film that were done seamlessly.
Not only was there a pause when switching between versions, but many times there was a shift in color cast and certain chapters (18 & 19 for me)of the movie became unwatchable and just froze up. For 30 Bucks I found this to be disgraceful and I will ask Best Buy for either another copy or just get the standard edition..
You have the option to watch either the original version or this extended version. The image quality, color and clarity vary a bit as it cuts between the theatrical version and the deleted scenes. Clearly, this wasn't recut and retimed for this "extended" version. The difference between the finished film and the added scenes are quite noticeable and jarring. A flawed masterpiece, Ray would have been a better film if the 25 minutes of additional footage had been integrated into this DVD in a better fashion than it is. No justice for the consumer, and none for the artists of the film and artist portrayed in the film."
(NOTE TO UNIVERSAL:If you can't do it right,then don't do it at all.)
I know a lot of people had problems with the extended version of the DVD, but it warns you that it might not play well on certain DVD players.
How'bout ANY player? And the two second delay seems HUGE, . . . stop action . . . wait then it jumps sometimes forward and sometimes backward UNTIMED!
This is not a review, but more of a rant on my part as a DVD Collector of 1,260+ DVD's. Please view this as an individual opinion on Universal, not on the content of the Film, Ray.
on November 12, 2004
I went to see Ray in the theaters last night because my sister suggested it and because I was in a mood to see something "critically acclaimed". For the record, I knew very little about the man and so had very few preconceptions. What I saw made a deep impression in my mind and heart.
Ray Robinson, aka Ray Charles the singer, songwriter and musician, was blind since the age of 7. He had to deal not only with bigotry for his disability but for being black in Georgia before the civil rights movement. Throughout his life many people (both black and white) would try to take advantage of the blind man, ripping him off financially or hoarding his talent for their own gain. Ray had both the blessing and the curse of being a ladies' man, resulting in serial affairs while his wife stayed home and raised their family. It surprised me to learn that he fought an addiction to heroin for well over a decade before finally beating it in the `60s. Nevertheless, Ray carried all this baggage and more through the 40s and 50s as he made a name for himself playing piano in the Country, Jazz, etc. pop music circuits. Eventually of course he rose to become one of the most recognized and beloved musical artists worldwide.
The man that this film showed me was an incredible example of determination, charm and simple human spirit. I have heard others say that Jamie Foxx's acting was so good that they were half-convinced he was channeling Ray Charles' ghost. I'll take their word for it that it was an accurate performance, but regardless, it was also a great performance! Down the line each of the supporting actors was perfectly convincing and real, but none more so than Foxx. I will denounce the Academy if he isn't at least nominated for an Oscar.
The least of Ray's imperfections was his physical blindness --yet he had a powerful gift and the ability to reach into the collective soul of a nation. Over his long career as a musician and songwriter, Ray Charles Robinson created and performed some of the most memorable music to audiences across the country. Your color, age and creed doesn't matter; chances are, you've heard and loved at least one Ray Charles song in your lifetime. We'll never have another like him.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle.
on February 2, 2005
I somehow missed this at the movies but I was determined with all the Oscar buzz and hype Jamie Foxx was receiving, that I'd buy it and form my own opinion. I have to give it up for Jamie Foxx, he just didn't play Ray Charles, he practically was Ray Charles. His acting was just absolutely flawless. The supporting cast of Clifton Powell, Regina King, Kelly Washington, Larenz Tate, Bokeem Woodbine, and the newcomer who played his mother (I forgot her name that quick) who's never been in anything outside of a local theatre when discovered, all did a marvelous job as well. I was never a really big Ray Charles fan but I loved the music in the film. However, the big disappointment for me was buying the Limited Edition version with the extended edition of the movie. Like someone posted earlier, When viewing the "extended" version my player had to pause every time it went to a "deleted scene." It had to pause again when it went back to the theatrical version. I have other disks in my collection which have extended versions with deleted scenes cut into the film that were done seamlessly.
Not only was there a pause when switching between versions, but many times there was a shift in color cast and certain chapters (18 & 19 for me)of the movie became unwatchable and just froze up. For 30 Bucks I found this to be disgraceful and I will ask Best Buy for either another copy or just get the standard edition. The special features on Disc 2 were excellent including the uncut performances that were cut short in the original film and the meeting of Foxx and Charles in a studio in 2002 to see if Foxx met Ray's approval (which it obviously did). Foxx is not only a talented actor, but an extremely gifted pianist come to find out. The sky's the limit for this brother and I hope he comes away with the Oscar cuz his performance again was flawless. I'd suggest buying the standard edition just to avoid all the nonsense I had to go through with extended edition. If not for the sorry DVD transfer this would easily been a five star classic. Who knows maybe they'll do like everyone else and come out with another edition with better film transfer. Great Biopic though.
The fabulous music, and a performance by Jamie Foxx that captures the essence of the complex character that was Ray Charles, override the flaws that may be found in this film. Ray's roots were in the abject poverty of his youth in Greenville, Florida, where he witnessed the drowning of his younger brother, and shortly afterward started to go blind at the age of 5. Many of the events from his childhood are told in flashbacks, and there is a magical scene where he learns to use his ears to replace his eyes, as his mother watches in silence. His life on the road, his many women, and his battle with heroin addiction are depicted, but it's the music that drove his life. Ray was a musical genius who also had an astute instinct for business, and for what songs to add to his repertoire, which often broke new ground and went against the advice of the record industry experts.
Every bit of praise and every award (including the Best Actor Oscar) for Jamie Foxx is justified. Though the soundtrack uses the original recordings dating as far back as the 1953 "Mess Around," Foxx is obviously an accomplished pianist; the actor and his role are like a marriage made in heaven, and this film biography will surely become a classic. The others in the cast that surround him are excellent, with Sharon Warren as his mother, Regina King as Margie Hendricks, and Curtis Armstrong as Ahmet Ertegun among the standouts.
Director Taylor Hackwood blends the flashbacks and nightmares from the past into the thread of the story in a cohesive manner, and one is never lost in the sequences, as can easily happen with that style of storytelling. The flaws in the film would be in some of the stereotypical characterizations, but they fade into the background quickly as the power of Ray the genius and Jamie the actor rivet out attention to the screen. "Ray" also received an Oscar for Best Sound, and nominations for Best Picture, Director, Editing, and Costume Design. The songs include: "Mess Around," "I Got a Woman," "Night Time is the Right Time," "What'd I Say," "Georgia on My Mind," "Hit the Road, Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "I Can't Stop Loving You," "Born to Lose," and much more. Total running time is 153 minutes.
on April 26, 2015
By this point it's pretty hard to do something original with a biopic, and now that I've seen several of them (particularly the musical kind) a pattern has emerged. Typically, they will pick a time period in a person's life/career and focus on a certain personal struggle and how they overcome it. With musicians, this often involves women and substance abuse. 'Tis the same story with Ray Charles. RAY focuses on Ray Charles' beginnings in the music business up through the point at which he came clean off of heroin (around 1966). To round out the narrative, there are flashbacks to his childhood and an extended coda which ties up a significant plot point from before and serves as an epitaph to his life and career (the film came out several months after his death). Because so many biopics follow the same formula, what distinguishes them from one another (other than the subject) is the quality of the performances and the ingenuity with which they are put together, and RAY certainly stands out from the rest thanks in large part to an excellent central performance by Jamie Foxx. The way he inhabits Ray Charles is uncanny at times, although the straightforward dramatic scenes verge on mimicry in a way that stands out more when juxtaposed with the performance scenes. For me, the performance scenes work better because Jamie Foxx was able to capture a realness and immediacy that comes from someone who is intimately familiar with performing music on the stage (as Foxx is also a singer). Beyond that I thought that the editing, particularly in the musical sequences had a certain kinetic energy that brought the performances to life. However, I found it a little distracting that Ray Charles' voice was coming out of Jamie Foxx's body when there was a few early scenes where Jamie Foxx used his own voice to sing. Even still, I got used to it after a while. In general, I thought that everyone gave a good performance, and the film had an excellent ensemble cast. One thing I also thought was done rather well was the hallucinogenic nature of the flashback scenes, which added a layer of artfulness as inner turmoil, with Ray Charles feeling guilty about how his younger brother died. What I felt didn't always work was the general formula and obligatory dramatic moments which hit again and again just how dependent Ray became on heroin. I got a little tired and frustrated with it in WALK THE LINE (although that came out the following year, and followed RAY's playbook) and felt the same way here. Yes, it was a compelling arc to have in a general sense, but it's something that's been played out a little bit too much, in my opinion. Despite the formulaic nature of the plot and story, I had a great time with RAY because of the talented actors who brought it to life, and the energetic and soulful musical numbers. RAY might rely a little too heavily on formula, but at least it's a winning one.
on February 27, 2005
Ray Charles himself annointed this young talent and now Foxx has joined the ranks of Poitier, Denzel Washington and now Morgan Freeman, as one of the great African American actors of our time! I am so godly proud of him tonite on his special nite of recognition and like Jamie said in his acceptance speech, his Grandmother is certainly looking down on him tonite, smiling a big smile of approval and blessing and indeed, they will have a great conversation and much to talk about in his dreams! CONGRATULATIONS JAMIE~ you deserve this and you definitely earned it and we are all proud of you in Texas!
on February 7, 2005
The buzz about this film centers mainly around the brilliance of Jamie Foxx in the title role. While these accolades aren't unjustified, the movie also benefits from a brilliant supporting cast and a laser sharp attention to detail. Best of all there is an earnest attempt on the part of the late Ray Charles and of the director to tell the story with honesty; this is a trait lacking in many biopics.
While most of the film follows Charles' life in a linear fashion, we get several short episodes from his early life, usually in the form of flashbacks on the part of the main character. The most poignant of these is the musician's recollection of his brother's death, which he witnessed firsthand. This episode, which occurred when Charles was only six, was a major source of guilt for the rest of his life.
Many viewers will appreciate that there are at least four great roles in the movie for women. While his extra-marital affairs are an unfortunate reality of the musician's life, these women are played brilliantly by Regina King and Aunjanue Ellis. Director Taylor Hackford reveals in his commentary that Sharen Warren's only credits before this film were parts in community theatre, which makes her effort as Ray's mother, Aretha Robinson, all the more impressive. Kerry Washington also shines as Della Charles, the gospel singer who would become Ray's wife.
The movie pursues Ray's double life as a man who publicly dazzles with his musical genius, but privately suffers from the demons in his soul. He uses heroin and numerous women to self-medicate and to forget his pain. His drug use continued for some time until Ray he went into rehab and faced some of his issues.
An interesting aspect of the film concerns just how Ray Charles overcame his disability. He gives clues along the way, such as the use of hard-heeled shoes so that he could hear the echoes of his footsteps against walls. He also used a numbering system so that he would always wear the right colored socks with his shirts and trousers.
Finally, for anyone who has studied the progression of popular musicians, the journey of Charles from a sound-a-like, who mimics artists such as Nat King Cole to an innovator, who blends gospel with rhythm and blues to create his own unique sound, is fascinating. One key to his musical progression was surrounding himself with people like his wife Della, who he could always count on to tell it to him "straight." Another key was the support of Atlantic Records, whose producers encouraged the young artist to develop his own sound. The lion's share of Charles' journey, of course, is due to his genius as a musician; to get into the mind of such a brilliant man would be amazing. It's a testament to this film's greatness that it can start us on that path, yet be so entertaining.
No matter which name they announce on Oscar night, Jamie Foxx will still be the winner. The only true competition this year would have been Jeff Bridges' searing performance in The Door in the Floor or Paul Giamannti in Sideways and neither one of these actors was nominated. Foxx's performance towers above everyone else nominated this year. He channels Charles' energy, quirks, movements and personality in a performance that doesn't just mimic Charles but goes right to the heart of the man.
Director Taylor Hackford's love of music infuses this film as it has just about every other one he's directed. The difference here is that Hackford truly has found a larger-than-life but very mortal artist that changed the sound of R&B by merging it seamlessly with the emotional power of gospel, country and western and just about any other genre Charles effortlessly tackled. What makes Ray so powerful is its unflincing honesty about Charles' demons and infidelities. It also shows that, regardless of Charles' sins, his salvation always could be found in the emotional core of his music.
Ray looks very good on DVD. The length of the theatrical release along with the inclusion of deleted scenes for the longer DVD release means that the image quality has been compromised just a tad. The colors are rich with remarkable detail and the solid blacks are highlights of this transfer. 25 minutes of additional footage has been added back in for the extended version. You have the option to watch either the original version or this extended version. The image quality, color and clarity vary a bit as it cuts between the theatrical version and the deleted scenes. Clearly, this wasn't recut and retimed for this "extended" version. The difference between the finished film and the added scenes are quite noticeable and jarring. The 5.1 soundtrack features a rich full bodied sound that immediately pulls you into the action. Charles' songs (featuring both original and new recordings) sound terrific in the 5.1 format.
The inclusion of the 25 minutes of footage is a welcome addition but there are a couple of problems. Unlike Fox's superb extended branching editions of the Alien films, the disc pauses as it searches for the deleted scenes. This disrupts the continuity and flow of the movie. Personally, I would have preferred this in a 2 disc set featuring both the theatrical cut and the extended version along with extras on the flipside of one of these discs. There IS a two disc edition but it's bogged down by extras many of which are little more than padding. We also get to see the complete uncut performances of Ray & The Raelettes performing Hit the Road Jack and a number of other tracks cut for the film. Walking in His Shoes features Jamie Foxx discussing his performance of Charles and Charles himself performing with Foxx. Luckily Foxx was trained as a classical pianist so he aquits himself very well when they goof around ont he Charles chestnut "Mess Around". It's fun to watch and a worthwhile addition to the set. Ray Remembered features interviews with those that worked with him past and present both on his albums and those that observed him while working on the film. The differences between the single disc edition and the double disc are in the extras. The two disc edition features a number of fascinating featurettes on the women in Charles' life, the "Soulmates" featurette, a documentary on Taylor Hackford's love of Charles' music and difficulty in getting the project made and an exceptionally good documentary on Charles entitled "Ray: An American Journey". If you aren't likely to dip your toe into these feauturettes and documentaries than the extra cost for the two disc set isn't probably going to be worth it for you. There's also a booklet on Charles and the making of the film. The single disc edition of the movie is presented in the dreaded dual sided, dual layered format. Why dreaded? Because this format doesn't stand up to wear and tear as well. Universal probably should have released this two editions; a two disc set (vs. the dual layered, dual sided version) and a three disc set at affordable prices. Surely if other studios can release the two disc sets and make a profit, then Universal can as well.
Taylor Hackford's incisive commentary track tackles a wide range of topics from the challenges of shooting the film, recreating the past and the wonder and awe he felt working with both Foxx and Charles. Hackford also documents where the film veers from reality and the dramatic reasons why. It's one of the few solo commentary tracks worth listening to from beginning to end.
A flawed masterpiece, Ray would have been a better film if the 25 minutes of additional footage had been integrated into this DVD in a better fashion than it is. Nevertheless, Hackford's passion for music and interest in the subject along with the terrific performances from Foxx and the rest of the cast makes this an essential purchase for fans of Charles' music. Although the portrait it paints is frequently less than complimentary and unpleasant, it also allows us to understand the passion that drove this singular artist to help create a unique sound in music.