In the warts-and-all biopic, RAY, Jamie Foxx plays Ray Charles, "a blind 'Bama
boy" who swept the music world with his unique blend of R&B and gospel music.
Last seen as the good guy cab driver opposite the bad guy hit man Tom Cruise in
COLLATERAL, Foxx gives another dead-on performance mimicking Ray's mannerisms
perfectly. When the Oscar nominations come out, you can count on his name
being high on the list. On the other hand, his performance is done with a
robot's mechanical accuracy with little heart in evidence, so don't be
surprised if you end up rooting for someone else to take home the statuette.
Blind from a very early age, Ray lived with his poor mother, who worked as a
laundress. He rarely saw his father, who had three different families. This
philandering attitude is one Ray adopted when he became famous. Kerry
Washington plays his homebound wife, Della Bea. While she tended to his
babies, he had a string of women on the road as well as at least one regular
with whom he had another family.
Ray's effective polygamy, however, wasn't his biggest problem. He was a junkie
with an addiction to heroin that lasted for decades, getting into him serious
trouble and almost messing up his music career more than once.
The movie suffers too, but from a different affliction. Although it works hard
to bring out more showroom fresh antique automobiles than you'd find in twenty
museums in order to capture the 50s and 60s perfectly, it wastes way too much
time. A movie that has no need to be long runs two-and-a-half butt-numbing
hours. Watching it is rather like observing a flabby fighter, whom you wish
had gotten into fighting trim before he stepped into the ring. First to go in
a good director's cut of the movie would be all of the overacted flashbacks of
Ray's childhood miseries. None of them feel genuine.
What works consistently and always in the film are the musical numbers, which
are energetic and soulful, sung by the master himself. RAY is a flawed work
but a reasonably satisfying one, especially if you wait for video when you can
hit that fast-forward button when the picture makes its frequent sojourns into
Finally, let's play a game. You are the MPAA. You are presented with a film
with numerous scenes of a guy strapping down his arm and shooting up heroin in
a very realistic manner, as well as other drug usage scenes. What rating would
give it? How about PG-13 -- the same rating you gave 13 GOING ON 30,
SPIDER-MAN 2 and HIDALGO? Right.
RAY runs needlessly long at 2:32. It is rated PG-13 for "depiction of drug
addiction, sexuality and some thematic elements" and would be acceptable for
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes