Anthony's Film Review
A touching tribute to a music legend and one of the best films of 2004...
It is sad that Ray Charles passed away shortly after filming for Ray had ended. He did, however, approve the script himself, comfortable that the filmmakers really understood his life. The film could have been made years ago, but if it had, it would probably not be as outstanding and breathtaking as this version, simply because nobody besides Jamie Foxx could portray the singer so convincingly. He is the reason that this movie works. Whether it is Ray's walking, talking, or even smiling, Foxx covers every detail and sinks into Ray's persona. I had almost no doubt that Jamie Foxx would win the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2005.
The film is not entirely structured like any traditional biographical film. Instead of starting with the events of Ray's childhood, we see him at age 18 as he heads off to Seattle to embark on his music career. The childhood scenes, especially those related to witnessing his younger brother accidentally drown and the guilt that follows, appear throughout the film as flashbacks. This is an effective method of telling the story, because these memories continue to haunt him as an adult. It would be a major factor in his downhill spiral towards heroin addiction. The childhood scenes also document Ray's blindness from glaucoma and him going off to a school for the blind.
The story mainly takes place from 1948 to 1965 with one more scene set in 1979. One can easily agree that he was a real musical sensation. The film nicely illustrates the record deals and the friendships with band members along with the problems he had: drug addiction and extramarital affairs. (In real life, Ray had numerous affairs, but the film only shows two of them.) It is an honest look at how Ray Charles had lived. The ups and downs he experienced are effectively presented on screen that one can easily feel Ray's emotions as if we were there with him. We also see how it all influences the music he performs.
Jamie Foxx is not the only cast member who deserves credit. I honestly think that every single member of the cast, whether in a major or minor role, has done a great job. Every character, including Ray's mother, his wife Della Bea, the record executives, the women whom Ray had affairs with, and even Ray as a child, is vivid and full of personality. This, along with the way the story is told, makes the film shine.
Ray would easily be in my list of the best films I've seen in 2004. Jamie Foxx truly deserved the Oscar for Best Actor. It is saddening as well as inspiring. The biopic does not cover the last 40 years of Ray's life, but there is no need to. Those last four decades are all years of joy and success. It is the story of the years before that matters since this is when Ray triumphs over his problems. Taylor Hackford and everyone else involved in the making of Ray have done a great job with it. The result is a movie that is a masterpiece and a wonderful tribute to the late Ray Charles.
For more information about Ray, visit the Internet Movie Database.