Ray stars Jamie Foxx as the one-of-a-kind innovator of soul who overcame impossible odds to become a music legend. It's the triumphant and remarkable story of one of America's true musical geniuses, Ray Charles.
While there have been many good music biopics, there have probably been just as many bad if not worse films about some of history's best-loved musicians. One of the most recent botched jobs – for me at least – being De-Lovely, Irwin Winkler's safe, lacklustre look at charismatic songwriter Cole Porter. And who could forget the car accident that was Oliver Stone's The Doors from 1991? Thankfully the life story of the now late R&B/soul/jazz performer Ray Charles, Ray, is a movie over which we can all breathe a giant sigh of relief. Ray may not be a brilliant film but it is solid and at times inspired.
Directed and co-written by Taylor Hackford, the American director who first shot to fame with '80s cinema classic (or guilty pleasure?) An Officer And A Gentleman (1982), Ray traces the rise and rise of Ray Charles from his struggle-town beginnings in the South in the 1930s. As we learn, music was Charles' salvation away from poverty, family tragedy and of course blindness at the tender age seven. Which on first glance may sound cliched – what music biopic doesn't use the old 'music as salvation' chestnut? But while Ray is a film unafraid to milk a few biopic conventions it also manages to rise above being ordinary with a fantastic and energetic lead performance by Jamie Foxx, and an authentic dedication to the music and innovations brought about by Charles and his musical collaborators.
Former comedian Jamie Foxx (Collateral, Any Given Sunday) just keeps improving as a dramatic actor, and puts in a more than convincing turn as Ray Charles, the progressive prodigy pianist who battled prejudice and drugs for much of his life and career. The mainly African-American support cast also make this film an easy watch, with Kerry Washington (The Human Stain), Regina King (A Cinderella Story) and Wendell Pierce (The Wire) the standouts.
While the film at times feels a little too slick to be true, it does feel well-researched, the more controversial aspects of Charles' life on display but not sensationalised, not unlike What's Love Got To Do With It (1993), the Tina Turner biopic which in many ways Ray resembles in tone and scope.
Most importantly, Ray is an entertaining music film that spotlights Charles' legacy to several eras of popular modern music.
Thursday 24 June, 8:30pm on NITV / NOTE: No catch-up at SBS On Demand
Friday 25 June, 12:00pm on NITV
M, AD, CC
Genre: Biography, Drama
Director: Taylor Hackford
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Harry Lennix, Regina King, Terrence Howard