(IMPORTANT: This is an old review. No matter how fast you run, it won't be showing at the local cinemas when you get there. You can always get in on DVD though...)
“Ray” covers the early years in the life of the pioneering musician Ray Charles. The movie tells us about what the road to fame is like, going through the different steps and aspects of this intense experience quite faithfully. But it’s also the story of a man –who, despite being amazingly good at playing piano, singing and composing, is as any other- struggling for a chance to live his life without becoming a monster in the process.
Only someone like the director Taylor Hackford, who, as we realise during the first minutes of the movie, deeply admires Ray Charles, would have been capable of going through such a difficult and long project (which, incidentally, involved Charles himself in the early stages, before his death). On the other hand, this vast love ends up ruining some moments of the film (and some others that, because of the same kind approach, were never created) in which the behaviour of the philandering and heroin-addicted soul singer remains unscathed instead of being condemned by the eventually too belligerent director.
The same thing happens, in some way, with the subplot that takes us to explore the past from time to time. Although it’s in general well handled, it becomes quite tedious by the end. And the almost celestial final image is definitely too much and doesn’t contain any new meaning: after an almost-three-hour film –seemingly longer because of the constant fades by the end-, the director feels he forgot to include a deep moral (which is not needed) and hurries to ruin another moment of the story.
Yet “Ray” is an enormously human story, in part because of a meticulous script and in part thanks to the actors.
The choice of Jamie Foxx -by the way, approved by none other than Ray Charles, who also taught ‘some piano tricks’ to the actor- as the protagonist give us the chance of enjoying a delightful unrepeatable performance. Foxx, also pianist, looks and sounds like the original Charles. And he offers nerve and authenticity while playing and pretending to sing his recordings.
Let's not forget the impressive Sharon Warren, as well, in the role of Ray’s mother, so shocking and decisive at all times like a whole life of maternal schooling encapsulated in a few minutes.
But, the way I see it, the best present that we receive from director and scriptwriter with “Ray” are various wonderful scenes, two in particular: one, belonging to Ray’s childhood, in which he falls over already being blind; and another, close to the end of the movie, in which Ray’s wife tells him about what he could lose if he didn’t give up drugs. I still feel something special while I write these lines. Scenes like those remind me of the power of good storytelling and would make the movie worth watching even if it told nothing else.
The music is, as expected, one voice more, speaking about that period and its composer’s attitude before it (as the gospel music subject). It’s easy to fall in love with the toe-tapping rhythm as you watch the movie. And particularly enjoyable are some parts in which lyrics completely integrate into the story to tell part of what is happening.