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Laramie Movie Scope: Ray

Solid Ray Charles biopic

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 18, 2004 -- “Ray” is a conventional, but informative, warts-and-all biography of the late Ray Charles featuring an Oscar-worthy performance by Jamie Foxx (“On Any Given Sunday”). The movie also benefits greatly from a wealth of powerful supporting performances. The story follows Ray Charles Robinson from his impoverished childhood to the height of his musical career as a pop superstar. Ray Charles won 12 Grammy Awards, and a 1988 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He had 76 best-selling singles on the music charts.

The film gives the viewer insight not only into Ray's musical genius, his savvy business sense, and the uncanny way he was able to use his intelligence and his keen hearing to overcome his blindness, but his addiction to heroin, his womanizing and his single-minded pursuit of his musical career to the detriment of his family. The film pulls no punches in this area.

The film also delves deeply into Ray's musical roots in blues, gospel and country-western music. Much of the film follows his evolution as an artist trying to find his own unique sound. Early in his career, he used his uncanny ability to imitate others, while working in other musical groups.

Jamie Fox gives an outstanding performance as Ray Charles. He is utterly convincing and seems to disappear into the role. Some say he is a shoo-in for an best-actor Oscar. It certainly wouldn't surprise me if he won. It is the kind of performance that the Academy loves. Kerry Washington “She Hate Me”), who plays Ray's long-suffering wife, Della Bea Robinson, also gives a very strong performance. Newcomer Sharon Warren, who portrays Ray's mother Aretha Robinson is a revelation. Her performance is searing in its intensity.

Also providing strong supporting performances are Aunjanue Ellis (“Garden State”) as Mary Ann Fisher, and Regina King (“A Cinderella Story,” “Jerry Maguire”), who plays Margie Hendricks. Both Hendricks and Fisher performed as Ray's backup singers, called “The Raylets.” Another good performance is given by Curtis Armstrong, who plays Ahmet Ertegun, an Atlantic Records executive. There's a nice scene between Armstrong and Foxx which shows how Ertegun and Ray Charles remained friends even after Ray left Atlantic for another label.

The movie is a bit on the long side. It could have been trimmed a bit more. While the film is pretty harsh in its depiction of Ray, it is pretty soft on the other characters. Punches are pulled. The film is directed by Taylor Hackford (“Proof of Life”). Of course, the music in the film is tremendous. The songs are all performed by Ray Charles himself. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2004 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)