Directed by: Taylor Hackford
Written by:James L. White
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Harry Lennix, Bokeem Woodbine
Released: January 26, 2005
Grade: B+

Biopics are in fashion.  We’ve reflected on the lives of J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey, Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries and Alexander The Great in Alexander.  In the coming weeks, we’ll check in on Howard Hughes in The Aviator, Ramon Sampedro in The Sea Inside and Vera Drake in Vera Drake.

The Ray Charles I know is the great blind musician who was loved by so many.  This is how many others will remember him too.  But the first 30 or so years of Ray’s life was one struggle after the other.  Gaining notoriety only brought on more problems.

Taylor Hackford’s film chronicles the early years of Ray Charles’ music career with reflections on his upbringing.  Much has been said of the mind-blowing performance of Jamie Foxx and I agree 100%.  Foxx is truly brilliant and I guarantee that he will walk away with the best actor Oscar in a few weeks.  I’m just as stunned as you are to think that the star of Booty Call can soon add the moniker “Academy Award winner” to his name.  For those curious, that isn’t Foxx’s voice doing the singing.  It’s the real Ray Charles but you wouldn’t know it as the lip-syncing is spot on.

In Ray, we see Charles fight to get a fair deal with agents and studios, develop a drug addiction and cheat many times on his wife.  It’s not a flattering portrait but one which I am told is a true reflection.  Some of the best scenes in the film come towards the end when it becomes difficult for Ray to learn who can be trusted and who cannot. 

The film is definitely too long at just over two and a half hours.  My mind wandered at times and I believe it could have been more interesting and effective at just two hours.  Those more familiar with his music though may have no qualms.  You’ll get to hear such classics as “I Got A Woman”, “Georgia On My Mind”, “Hit The Road Jack”, “Unchain My Heart”, “Bye Bye Love” and “You Don’t Know Me”.

Ray Charles passed away last June but did have an influence over the project.  He had the screenplay translated into Braille so that he was able to read it.  He really was an amazing musician and credit to him for overcoming much adversity.