Ray Charles (Jamie Foxx) made his way to Seattle as a teenager to join the jazz scene, shortly after the war. He left behind his loving mother, and the memories of his younger brother, George, who drowned in a tragic accident when Ray was 5 - when he began to go blind. Ray's natural talent and a fierce determination led him to become an accomplished musician. He was signed by Atlantic Records and his fame began to spread, as did his bad habits: women and heroin. His marriage to Della Bea (Kerry Washington) was troubled, despite his deep seated love for her. On the road, he took several girlfriends and eventually gave them all up when he finally gave up heroin during a period in rehab. His success was also marred by squabbles and dissent within his band, and a switch to the ABC recording label. But audiences couldn't find fault with Ray, who returned to a State welcome in Georgia in 1979, 28 years after he was banned from there for refusing to play at segregated concerts.
Review by Louise Keller:
If you love Ray Charles' music or were blown away by Jamie Foxx's performance in Ray, the DVD is a must-see. The two-disc set is packed with special features including an insightful audio commentary from director Taylor Hackford and a wonderful feature in which Foxx jams with the real Ray Charles in the Studio. 'Let's play some blues in the key of G,' Charles says, and we watch in fascination as Foxx takes his cue from the musical master. As Hackford points out, Foxx won the role in the studio from Ray Charles himself. Hackford's dense audio commentary sets the scene perfectly as he tells of his 15 year odyssey to make the film. He admits it is the most extraordinary coming together of any project in his entire career, and points out where fiction collides with fact. Other special features include more about the film, extended musical scenes, deleted scenes and trailers. Genius: A Night for Ray Charles, a tribute concert on DVD is available separately.
He was born with the music in him. That unmistakable rasping voice that caressed every lyric of every song, irrespective of the genre. His eyes might have been hidden by dark glasses, but his soul was clearly on display throughout his music. His foot started tapping, his fingers danced on the keyboard and his body simply moved with the rhythm. Ray Charles was the king of soul, the master of jazz, the innovator who married blues with gospel and loved country music because of the stories it could tell. Breaking more than the barriers between the music genres, he stood up for what he believed in, including racial discrimination.
Ray is a powerhouse of a film, and Jamie Foxx inhabits the character with so much voracity that it is impossible to decipher where the actor and the artist collide. It's an electric performance that sizzles on every level, always leaving us with the feeling that Ray Charles himself would approve. Before his death, Charles gave the approving nod for the casting of Foxx, who also learned the piano from an early age and lip-synchs with great conviction.
Director Taylor Hackford (An Officer and A Gentleman) concentrates on 15 crucial years in the life of Ray Charles Robinson - from his humble beginnings through the highs and lows of both his personal and professional life. We meet the struggling musician, the lover who determines a woman's beauty by feeling her hands, the loving husband, the junkie whose habit gets out of control, the astute businessman who learns how to get an even better deal than Sinatra. He leads a double life. There's life at home in a fine house with his wife Bea (Kerry Washington) and growing family. But there is also life on the road, which means shooting up, a girl in his bed (Regina King as Margie) and a show every night. And not necessarily in that order. Music is what flows through his veins.
The flash-backs to his childhood, when Charles experienced life's hardest blows, are the film's most moving moments. Witnessing the accident that saw his younger brother George drown in front of his eyes is one that haunted him for much of his life, the trauma of which, together with glaucoma, was partly responsible for his blindness. His hard-working laundress mother Aretha (Sharon Warren, magnificent) taught him to use his ears as his eyes, and by not over-coddling him, instilled in him key survival instincts. 'You might be blind, but you're not stupid,' she tells him. These are the moments that jolt our emotions and if, like me, you are the kind of person who cries in movies, the tears simply flow.
Ray the film, like his songs, depicts every emotion from devastation to elation. It's an affecting and an exuberant journey, and the music just keeps coming. In the recording studio, on the stage, wherever it might be...our toes tap and we are transported by the music and the rhythm. If you are a Ray Charles fan or a lover of music or life, this film is a must.
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RAY: DVD (M)
CAST: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Harry Lennix, Bokeem Woodbine, Aunjanue Ellis, Sharon Warren, C.J. Sanders, Curtis Armstrong, Richard Schiff, Larenz Tate
PRODUCER: Howard Baldwin, Karen Elise, Baldwin, Stuart Benjamin, Taylor Hackford
DIRECTOR: Taylor Hackford
SCRIPT: James L. White, Taylor Hackford
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pawel Edelman
EDITOR: Paul Hirsch
MUSIC: Ray Charles, Craig Armstrong
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen Altman
RUNNING TIME: 153 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 26, 2005
SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: Feature, Audio commentary by Taylor Hackford, DVS version (for blind or visually impaired);[BREAK]Disc 2: Deleted scenes, extended musical scenes, Stepping into the Part, Ray remembered, A Look Inside Ray, Soundtrack trailer, international trailer;
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
DVD RELEASE: June 15, 2005