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Overall Rating

Awesome: 26.43%
Worth A Look54.29%
Average: 12.14%
Pretty Bad: 5%
Total Crap: 2.14%

10 reviews, 80 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Who Is That Masked Man?"
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: It wasn’t until I was watching the film biography of Ray Charles that I realized how much I love his music. I’ve known it and listened to the rhythms for years. His great voice permeates the joy, pain and all the in-betweens of life. His songs, even as covers, were quintessentially Ray’s and no others. That is hardly true of Taylor Hackford’s new biopic, which chronicles the same ups, downs and landmark moments that encapsulate the majority of your average true-life film treatments. The only thing raising the decibel bar is an almost flawless performance by Jamie Foxx as the legendary superstar. The one flaw isn’t his fault, but it’s a major one.

Hackford and screenwriter James L. White disregard what would have been a more powerful linear approach to the material and instead begin with Ray and his journey towards the Seattle jazz scene. Flashbacks will be used to fill-in-the-blanks along the way. On one of his first stops, a loud point is made of his introduction to another struggling musician named Quincy Jones (Larenz Tate), but since this is not called Ray & Quincy, it’s treated as more of a coincidence than an important beginning.

This is just Ray and it’s his struggle, punctuated by an early tragedy he may have been able to prevent and a punishment (as if from above) that will leave him without sight at the age of five. Ray finds his notes with a little inspiration from the mama (Sharon Warren) who told him there’d be hard times and he slowly works his way from ignored pianist to success with Atlantic Records. In-between there will be a loving, supportive wife (Kerry Washington), a love of heroin and several mistresses from the “Raelettes”, rumored to be named because they would have to “let Ray.”

There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about this except for Ray’s music, which has to be punctuated by what apparently served as its inspiration. True it may be as music has to come from somewhere (with the best usually masked in sorrow) but it’s mostly portrayed like a screenwriter trying to fit the drama into the music instead of the other way around. Or it’s just downright silly as revealed in the creation of “Hit The Road Jack” with Raelette #2, Margie Hendricks (Regina King, playing another in her repertoire of enraged black women – there’s a big freakin’ surprise.)

The screenplay never goes for outright sympathy. It never goes for much of anything for that matter; simply chugging along to the next pitstop or triumph of Ray’s life with little more than just expository dialogue to bridge the events. Maybe that’s how Ray was and would have wanted it. He may not have wanted understanding for his drug use as the film portrays it as more a simple vice than an addiction. Conceivably he didn’t want compassion for his eyes although no less than three occasions does he exploit his blindness to create faux pity for his advantage. It actually does the opposite by lessening our opinion of the man behind the voice.

All of this is just background noise though unable to engulf Foxx’s performance. From the first pan to his face, it’s almost impossible to divulge the man from the impostor. Foxx has been an impersonation chameleon throughout his career, but it takes more than just a few ticks and vocal patterns to pull off a caricature for two-and-a-half hours. This is a solo act from beginning-to-(almost)-end. The Oscar buzz is legit provided that they don’t submit the final minutes for his clip. Call it metaphor, fantasized hope or the most ill-conceived moment in American cinema, but Hackford creates one of the ten greatest sins ever captured on film when during a flashbacked reverie, Ray takes off his glasses and is given sight. Beyond the ludicrous nature of this creative choice, it does a great injustice to the performance itself. For 135 minutes we’ve been watching Ray Charles. When the glasses come off and the prosthetics are absent, we see Jamie Foxx.

Ray (the film) is overly long and becomes more restless as it searches for a way to leave on an up-note. Instead we’re left on a sour note, quitting on us before ever getting to a performance of “America the Beautiful” or his role in The Blues Brothers. Not that the latter is particularly important to Charles’ life, but then again, neither is this film. Ray Charles certainly had a life worthy of exploration. Mainly because he recorded more songs and had a handicap that didn’t kill him. But are the ups-and-downs of famous people really that interesting? Couldn’t we just watch a Behind-the-Music and get the same greatest hits package in 100-less minutes than another dry, maybe-worthy-for-movie-of-the-week-status, biopic? As the great song says “Who knows better than I?” Probably Ray Charles and he already left us a legacy of music; one which speaks greater volumes than the film that borrows his name but not his soul.

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originally posted: 10/29/04 14:02:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/05/18 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
8/29/09 Jeff Wilder Foxx's performance alone makes it worth viewing. 4 stars
9/28/08 Shaun Wallner Boring!! 1 stars
2/04/08 Pamela White Nice to see that celebritys whole life 5 stars
4/30/07 MP Bartley Foxx is excellent but it's no Walk the Line 3 stars
2/22/07 R.W.Welch Overlong biopic is carried by class A acting across the board. 4 stars
7/05/06 bonnie mckeithren It's obvious,that though you rate many movies you know nothing...about life. 5 stars
4/25/06 Frankie Its not everything i imagined but it was iight 3 stars
4/03/06 JRE great acting, but average movie 4 stars
9/09/05 ralph a true movie expert 32 yrs old jamie foxx really won me over with this performance.if you dont like this film your weird. 4 stars
8/03/05 ALDO Overactors' showcase, Ray's mom was pitiful, script sucked, lighting sucked, Foxx was good 2 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins You have to be blind and deaf to enjoy this, retched. 1 stars
7/08/05 ELI AAAAAAARG!!! People didn't like it that much??? screw 'em! 5 stars
6/28/05 JFK good movie, too long i think. Jamie foxx best job 4 stars
5/22/05 Cham A big letdown after all the hype. Jamie Foxx is good though. 3 stars
5/19/05 wendy rogers I liked this movie ok...did not know much about Ray before seeing it 4 stars
5/07/05 edsandiego2 I love the movie. Just listening to the music is well worth it. 4 stars
5/06/05 Michelle Lofton inspirational! 4 stars
5/06/05 Mind Junkie Awesome 5 stars
5/04/05 Kyle Kapetanakis Only watch it to see a great performance from Jamie Foxx, like Charlize Theron in Monster 4 stars
5/02/05 dwarzel Academy awards for doing impressions? 1 stars
4/25/05 OverTheRainbow one of the best in a long time- a must see! 5 stars
4/19/05 Maril Smith Excellent acting by all and very in-depth look at Ray Charles' life 5 stars
4/16/05 Carol Conway Great acting and soundtrack 4 stars
4/15/05 Jeff Gilliland Wow, I didn't know Ray was such a jerk. Good flick, but perhaps overated. 4 stars
4/12/05 Carolyn Rathburn Very well done, good movie. 5 stars
4/09/05 Dan AWESOME. 5 stars
4/09/05 Tanya Grays regina king was great 5 stars
3/26/05 Denise moving 4 stars
3/24/05 dana Gordon A rate of awesome for Jamie Foxx's performance alone 5 stars
3/19/05 Green Grenlim Jamie Foxx is the best thing about this movie !!! 4 stars
3/08/05 Taylor Fladgate Eric Childress, once again, nails a review...Jamie Foxx was incredible. 4 stars
3/07/05 Daveman Cracking performance from Foxx is done no justice by this altogether ordinary biopic. 3 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung jamie deserved the oscar 4 stars
2/24/05 Mary JD Wonderful... I cried... felt such emotions from Jamie Foxx's acting 5 stars
2/23/05 KR Best Picture? No. But Foxx better get that Oscar, damnit! 5 stars
2/22/05 George "The Duke" Feist Amazing Jamie Foxx...3 movies (on TV) up for awards 5 stars
2/19/05 Captain Craig Talent production from start to finish. 5 stars
2/19/05 april gupton good, but a little too long 4 stars
2/16/05 Miranda Lahr Great movie, Rest well ray 5 stars
2/14/05 Jeanine Price Loved Jamie Foxx 4 stars
2/12/05 Sylvia Belle Very interesting biographical information 4 stars
2/12/05 Aimee Shelton Jamie Foxx delivers an amazing performance! 4 stars
2/09/05 Lisa Jochelson I loved this movie. They left a ton out, but I guess they had to. 5 stars
2/09/05 Al Guy A great movie, especially for music lovers. 5 stars
2/07/05 Jim Interesting. Learned a lot of stuff, for instance, "Booger' has gotten bald. 4 stars
2/06/05 Cassandra Farrar AWESOME!!! 5 stars
2/04/05 Tanya Grays Excellent film, Jamie Foxx has proven himself in this movie to be a great actor. 5 stars
2/03/05 Kent B. Jamie Fox did an excellent job in this movie. 4 stars
2/02/05 Rodney Stephens REALLY ENJOYED IT 4 stars
2/01/05 Danita Berg Go get your Oscar, Jamie! I really thought this movie was well done, and Jaime suprised me 5 stars
2/01/05 Lynda Eby Was interesting 4 stars
2/01/05 Andrea Haresign Loved It!! 5 stars
2/01/05 Alison this movie has not gotten near the attention it deserves 5 stars
1/30/05 Gretchen Lowe very good, I was expecting a comedy though 3 stars
1/29/05 Richard Brandt Like many biopics, ends by trying to wrap things up rather than come to a conclusion 4 stars
1/21/05 Uncle Phucker Don't respect the director but he pulled off a pretty damn good movie. Acting is great! 5 stars
12/28/04 efrain Not spectacular, but really worth seeing. Foxx is awesome. 4 stars
12/01/04 malcolm that was 2.5 hours? never felt like it. Foxx's Ray a million times better than Smith's Ali! 4 stars
11/13/04 ownerofdajoint foxx is brilliant;BRILLIANT i tell you;this has best actor for foxx all over it! 5 stars
11/09/04 psycho black dwarf sweet sounds, well delivered dialogue, visually stimulating flashbacks 4 stars
11/08/04 Eric This is definitely the best film of the year! Jamie Foxx was incredible! 5 stars
11/07/04 Suzz great performances; good film making; a bit long 5 stars
11/06/04 Jonetta It was great 5 stars
11/04/04 Arlene mesmerizing performances, fantastic movie! 5 stars
11/04/04 John phenomenal performances - well done and very entertaining 5 stars
11/04/04 vagile Surprisingly good. 4 stars
11/03/04 Kris Jamie will get a nod but the academy wont give him his 4 stars
11/02/04 Jay It was great, JF should get a nod and the music was wonderful, I agree it was a long movie 5 stars
11/02/04 Shay Knowles I thought the movie was good, a bit long but it kept my interest. Jamie Foxx was excellen! 4 stars
11/02/04 Llorie I thought the movie was amazing and anyone who love music should go see it 5 stars
11/02/04 lulu jamie foxx rocks! 5 stars
11/02/04 Jack Paris Best bio flick that I have ever seen 5 stars
11/01/04 Paul E-motive! Wonderful performance by JF & cast. 5 stars
11/01/04 Naka Somebody should delete that previous comment. Jackass. 5 stars
10/31/04 ajay certainly worth a look. 4 stars
10/30/04 Kimberly Phenomenal 5 stars
10/29/04 Mix Master Mason Foxx rocks, but this is generic bio-pic stuff... like a VH1 behind the scenes kind of thing 4 stars
9/27/04 Dawn Danowski I loved it. The music was great, Jamie Foxx was great! 5 stars
9/15/04 MM Some problems, but Jamie Foxx is amazing 4 stars
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  29-Oct-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Feb-2005



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