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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Jamie Foxx
Regina King.
Directors
Taylor Hackford.
Screenwriters
James L White.
Running Time
tbc minutes

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Ray


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Plot
In 1948, teenage musical genius Ray Charles Robinson (Foxx) sets off alone to join the jazz scene in Seattle. He then commences battle with the demons of childhood tragedy, disability, segregation and heroin addiction in a warts-and-all biopic that celebrates his life and legacy


Review
Taylor Hackford's Ray Charles story - 15 years in the making, involving a tenacious, at times testy, collaboration with its subject - couldn't be more timely, coming out within months of Ray's much-mourned passing. His 50-odd-year career coincided with major cultural upheaval, and this depiction of his artistic evolution not only reflects the changing social landscape around him, but emphasises his significance as he graduated from the Chitlin Circuit to concert halls, fusing gospel with blues (an innovation denounced as blasphemous) and jazz with rock, breaking all barriers in his way.

It's a given that a musical biopic will find dramatic incident to namecheck and prompt big numbers. So a perky kid with a trumpet will mosey in announcing, "I'm Quincy Jones." And, with delicious inevitability, a heated lover's quarrel will segue into a rousing performance of Hit The Road Jack. When the characters and songs are this strong, it's a pleasure anticipating the next cue. And there are some electrifying musical sequences, like the genesis of Ray's sensuous, driving anthem What'd I Say, or the angry departure of one backing singer/lover supplanted by another, interwoven with the chicks strutting their stuff on stage.

The structure is ambitious to exhaustion, focusing on the 'heroin years', taking Ray from 18 to around 40 and ending rather abruptly with the future as historical footnote. Ray's torrid love life spices up the grimmer aspect of growing addiction, drug bust and rehab. Flashbacks in brighter colours abound, covering the Depression-era childhood of loss, piano lessons, the onset of blindness and the tough love with which Mama Robinson shaped Ray's hard-headed approach to life. (The seemingly obligatory depiction of the child's brilliant ear for music and mimicry becoming more acute as his vision dims is, yes, a tad cute, but well-handled.)

Falling on the meaty, potential role of a lifetime like a ravenous lion, erstwhile comedian Jamie Foxx, so good in Collateral, is just wonderful as the eponymous star. His impersonation of Charles (who okayed him after they played piano together) is uncanny, and his empathy with Charles' sharp mind, artistry, self-absorption, suffering and survival mechanisms is complete, compelling and charismatic.


Verdict
Foxx's performance is nothing short of amazing, and Hackford's film overall does fine justice to Charles' musical legend and legacy.


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Average user rating for Ray
Empire Star Rating

Ray, A Musical Legend, The Guy That Changed It All...

Before I Watched This (Masterpiece) All I Knew About Ray Charles Was, That He Was A Blind Man Who Wore Glasses And Played A Song Called "Shake A Tail Feather" (Which Was Featured In The Blues Brothers), When I Watched This, I Couldn't Stop, It Was Just Gripping To Find Out What Would Happen Next. Jamie Foxx Just Does An Amazing Job At Playing Ray Charles. The Soundtrack Is Just Bloody Brilliant... Well Obviously, It's Ray Charles! This Film Is In My Top 5 Drama Movies Of All Time. Overall, I Wo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by 23mike95 at 21:54, 06 February 2009 | Report This Post


Ray Dazzles

Jamie Foxx is absolutely fantastic in this brilliant biopic of a music legend ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 13:04, 05 March 2008 | Report This Post


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