Cast: JJamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell, Aunjanue Ellis, Harry Lennix, Terrance Dashon Howard, Larenz Tate, Regina King, Sharon Warren
Director: Taylor Hackford
Genre: Musical Biography/Drama
Rated: M 15+ drug use, adult themes
Running Time: 152 Minutes
Winner 2005 Golden Globe : **Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy - Jamie Foxx**
The Extraordinary Life Story Of Ray Charles
'Ray' is the never-before-told, musical biographical drama of American legend Ray Charles, brought to the big screen following a 15-year journey by award -winning filmmaker Taylor Hackford and featuring a remarkable performance from the multifaceted Jamie Foxx.
If a life is merely the sum of its parts, then the story of Ray Charles might read as a tale of personal highs and lows behind a lengthy, award-winning career in the music business.
But for a man who synthesised his struggles, pain and personal darkness as effectively as he incorporated a myriad of musical styles - Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, Rock and Roll, Gospel, Country & Western - into his art, the story reads much differently, transformed from a sequence of events and accomplishments into a compelling and ultimately inspiring journey of a one-of-a-kind genius with a distinct vision
who, along the way, gave the world a new way to hear.
It is not often that the audience claps at the conclusion of a movie preview, but this was the case at the screening I attended of 'Ray'. And it was deserved. This is a remarkable film of an even more remarkable man. Jamie Foxx plays Ray Charles Robinson (the Robinson later being dropped to avoid confusion with Sugar Ray Robinson) with such intensity, passion and power that you really will believe it is Ray Charles on the screen.
Ray Charles Robinson's life was filled with a huge variety of experiences that ranged from the absolute pits to extraordinary highs, which the movie manages to portray without any excuses, warts-and-all. The movie begins in 1948 with a lone blind teenage Ray boarding a bus from Florida to Seattle, in order to find himself closer to the jazz scene. This opening sequence epitomises the courageousness of Ray as he travels alone, and is a taste of how he was often forced to rely on himself, something his mother, Aretha (newcomer Sharon Warren), instilled in him as he gradually became blind as a young child.
'Ray' is a musical biography and depicts Rays rise to fame and fortune from small-time jazz clubs, his chart debut with Swingtime Records, his managers, his signing with Atlantic Records, his switch to ABC Paramount, his Civil Rights activities and to playing Carnegie Hall. Ray was also the recipient of 12 Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, neither of which manage to make it to the screen as there are just too many accolades to fill the time and his rise from his extreme poverty and his earlier career are just too important to rush. Ray's early life as a budding jazz musician saw him become a heroin addict as he sought refuge from the demons he carried with him as a child. Ray witnessed the accidental drowning death of his younger brother George and it was within a year that Ray lost his sight, which for a child of 7 is almost inconceivable to comprehend. But aided by his tenacious mother, Ray did, but he never quite reconciled his brother's death and it continued to haunt him for years. Much of this part of Ray's life is told in flashback throughout the movie and there are also moments in Ray's adult life where he experiences hallucinations and panic attacks when childhood memories haunt him.
Ray Charles was first married to Della Bea Robinson (Kerry Washington) who loved him and remained loyal even knowing about his notorious infidelities and constant womanising, many of whom were back-up singers in his band. Many of these relationships are shown including one with Ray's long-time influential mistress, Margie Hendricks (Regina King).
The "real" Ray Charles was consulted numerous times regarding the authenticity of 'Ray' and he rarely sought change. Jamie Foxx spent time with Ray, which shows as Jamie perfected so many nuances, postures and mannerisms. Jamie is also a pianist which was coincidental and also a relief as so often actors trying to play piano look so inadequate and out of their depth but Jamie looks so at home in front of a piano.
'Ray' is interspersed with stock footage to depict different years and towns, but much of it was shot on location. From the depression poverty-stricken district where Ray was born to his lavish homes that his fortune bought him, authenticity is rife. Jamie Foxx has over 100 costume changes which is an indicator of the lengths taken to create the right impression, including many of Ray's later trademark tuxedo's and his vast array of wraparound glasses. There are roughly 40 different songs throughout the film, all being used to tell this incredible story, which creates a very colourful, moving, sometimes sad but often uplifting, upbeat production.
'Ray' is a very humbling experience.
Rating : A-