Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King
Director: Taylor Hackford
After sitting through the new biopic about famous recording artist Ray Charles, I was compelled to deconstruct the reasoning behind which biographies are deemed worthy to produce. If an interesting life filled with historical relevance is considered the ideal candidate, “Ray” is an unlikely choice. If movie execs are looking to exploit overdramatic situations about drug abuse and adultery in a script that drowns itself in almost an hour of unneeded footage, “Ray” is the perfect pitch.
Hot off a brilliant performance in the Michael Mann thriller, “Collateral,” Jamie Foxx fires back at critics as the young, talented and blind musical sensation, Ray Charles Robinson, during his ground-breaking renovation of the R&B and Gospel genres. The story follows Ray from his first gig on the West Coast in the early 1940s to his eventual rise to stardom in the early '60s after leaving Atlantic Records for ABC/Paramount with promises of more money.
The audience is treated to a few happier moments in Ray’s life, like his marriage to Della Bea (Kerry Washington), the birth of his first child and flashbacks of his childhood, but a majority of the script is shadowed in his heroin addiction and on-road affairs with backup singers Margie Hendricks (Regina King) and Mary Ann Fisher (Aunjanue Ellis). The rest of the film is rightfully dedicated to the music, but the performance scenes of Foxx lip-synching to Ray Charles’ original recordings become less exciting with each song and I was slowly turned off by his charm and enthusiasm. Both sympathy and talent take a backseat to his notorious problems with the law and the audience is soon left wondering why the musician has been portrayed in such a bad light.
Jamie Foxx does a wonderful job of bringing to life such a charismatic persona, and he certainly deserves an Oscar nod, but the film’s negative direction kills the final product. The dramatization seems so exaggerated that you will wonder why Ray’s son, Ray Charles Robinson Jr., appears as a co-producer credit in the beginning of the film, but after the musician’s tumultuous lifestyle is suddenly forgiven in the final minutes, it immediately becomes clear that this Oscar hopeful has been built with the notion that bad press is good as long as it’s interesting. Incredibly boring and dramatically redundant, the studio behind “Ray” deserves a slap on the hand for releasing this piece of crap.
The widescreen DVD release of "Ray" offers audiences the chance to see the film one more time before Oscar night alongside a few hours of extras. Including on the disc is the original theatrical version as well as an extended version complete with 14 deleted scenes. Also featured on the single-disc are two never-before-seen musical performances and two featurettes: "Stepping into the Part" and "Ray Remembered." The one major thing missing from this DVD release is a proper audio commentary by either Foxx or director Taylor Hackford, but be sure to look out for a take-your-money-and-run Special Edition to be released if "Ray" scores big at the Academy Awards.