A review of “Ray” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for profanity, nudity, drug use

Run Time: 2 hours, 32 minutes

 

 

Maybe it’s the hype but I’m not feeling the love.   Jamie Foxx gives a solid characterization of controversial piano-man Ray Charles in this rangy but transparent crowd-pleaser.

Ray utilizes cheap tactics to draw audience favor.  Ba-da-boom humor, crazy edits, and glitzy graphics step in for genuine drama and the brand of hard-luck emotion that coursed through the real Mr. Charles’ veins.

Dramatic seedlings aren’t fully sowed, in particular a heavy load of guilt over the accidental drowning death of his baby brother for which Charles felt responsible.  That guilt and an ugly heroin dependency are present and accounted for but the two don’t bisect, leaving a connect-the-dotsedness in their wake.

Then there’s the music. Soulfully laden with pleasure and sadness.  A fiery blend of gospel, jazz and swing that tingles right down to the toes. Foxx does a credible lip-synch and can finger the keyboard with his eyes closed.  Which he does a la specialty prosthetics that force him to perform the film blind. 

Supporting performers work it, from Ray’s girls Bea (the long suffering spouse as played by Kerry Washington) and volatile mistress Margie (Regina King) to Charles’s right-hand man cum stooge Jeff Brown (Clifton Powell) and Atlantis Record mogul Ahmet Ertegun (Curtis Armstrong).

Charles’ cinematic fable has been in turnaround for years and it’s worthy of the effort it took to get it to the big-screen.  From his hard-knock life to his influential recording career Charles had “It” in spades. Just give it to me straight, not formulaic and cheese-balled in order to troll for Oscars and sell more tickets. 

Last half hour is a rushed affair, as though the final thirty needed an eleventh-hour trim. Whatever momentum is present at that point is lost amidst hurried narration and a neck-breaking leap to the finish.