RAY (Taylor Hackford, 2004)
Taylor Hackford’s biopic RAY looks at the most important years in the development of Ray Charles into one of the nation’s great entertainers. Jamie Foxx stars as the popular singer and musical innovator whose personal life was riddled with drug addiction and womanizing.
RAY is packed with terrific music, a quality that helps the bloated running time pass by more easily. It was a wise decision to have Foxx lip sync to Ray Charles’ recordings. Any imitation of a voice as distinctive and familiar as his would distract. Foxx’s performance came prepackaged as one of the year’s best and the prohibitive Oscar favorite for Best Actor. Without a doubt, he is very good. Foxx is restrained as someone who exists in the popular imagination as larger than life. On a technical level he has Ray’s gestures and body language down. As the film gets deeper into its two and a half hours, the shapelessness becomes a problem. Hackford doesn’t have an end in sight, just more markers that must be reached along the journey. RAY is a flawed film, but Foxx’s captivating acting and a bustling soundtrack smooth the rough spots.
(Review first aired on the November 9, 2004 NOW PLAYING)