It’s a fact that I find it easier and more enjoyable to bitch about an awful film than to sing the praises of a really good film. This is because I am, at heart, a bastard. So I find myself with a dilemma when it comes to talking about Ray Charles biopic Ray.
This isn’t because it’s a good film, per se. It has its faults. It’s not bad, not at all, but as films go it doesn’t do anything particularly challenging or original. The direction is adequate, the cast are generally fine…you know, it’s ok. But I don’t like saying these things. I don’t want to criticise this film, because while as films go it’s average, as an evening of entertainment by Ray Charles goes, it’s bloody brilliant.
Jamie Foxx is Ray Charles here, and his performance is stunning. Seriously, absolutely, wonderfully stunning. I can’t stress this enough — it’s the single greatest performance I’ve seen in a film for a very long time, and he deserves to be showered with awards for it. It’s uncanny, and you will forget you’re watching an actor.
Ray is a very sympathetic film, and I felt it glossed over several of the darker sides of Ray Charles. There are repeated mentions of his heroin addiction, but these generally show up as a character — his wife, or his manager — telling him that he needs to give up, and him refusing, saying he’s fine and in control, and then we skip to the next scene. We’re never really shown that he’s wrong, either. The film makes no moral judgement on the fact that Ray has a regular mistress when he’s on the road — it’s simply mentioned, accepted, and everyone lives with it.
I left the cinema not knowing a great deal more about Ray Charles than I did when I went in. The film doesn’t cover his entire life — we have some scenes when he was a boy, living in poverty, and then the rest of the film (save for the very end) takes up most of the early and part of the middle section of his career. It ends abruptly with him giving up heroin, which features the only point in the film where Jamie Foxx is Jamie Foxx and not Ray Charles — the glasses come off, the eyes open, and all of Ray’s mannerisms are gone. It’s a badly-handled scene and I don’t think it should have been in there at all.
That’s really my harshest criticism. This is a great film to watch, but it’s very much a Jamie Foxx film. As I said, the supporting cast are all fine, with Kerry Washington and Regina King standing out as his wife and mistress respectively, but nobody’s going to distract you. Go and see it, and enjoy watching Ray Charles perform — just don’t be disappointed if the film doesn’t match Foxx’s performance.