Film Review: Ray

Ray is one of those films that I have had sat on the shelf, gathering dust, for a long, long time. I’ve always heard people speak very highly of it as a film, after all Jamie Foxx cleaned up the 2005 awards season and the film picked up nominations left, right and centre in a vast array of categories and as a result, I think subconsciously, Ray had become a “keep for a special day/watch the rubbish first” type film and as we all know, tomorrow never comes.

I also can’t help but think that an equally hefty factor in why it’s taken me so long to watch to the point I have been almost avoiding Ray is the running length – it’s over two and a half hours long – and as recently, I haven’t felt overly inclined to have a late night, finding the time of an evening to watch Ray post mundane tasks like cooking, eating and washing up has proved rather tricky. However, having cleared my Sky+ box for a lot of the “need to watch soon” recordings and without anything on the television of note, everything just seemed to be lining up and falling into place.

And so for two and a half hours I was treated to the world of Ray Charles Robinson. Now I, like most people I am sure, are fairly familiar with the style of music that made his name, but I won’t profess to being his biggest fan. In fact, checking my MP3 collections turns up zero albums and more surprisingly, zero individual tracks! But not to matter, this movie is more about his life than his music, however much the two have to intertwine as his life marches forward.

Musically, this film is stunning. It really captures the essence and development of not only Ray Charles’ style and sound but also the whole changing of American taste and genre as society moves from the 1950’s into and then through the 1960’s and into the 1970’s. Jamie Foxx really nails the mannerisms and showmanship of Ray Charles, and I found myself totally immersed to the point I almost wished I was alive back then: going on that ride, in that club, listening to that gig. However, while the sound production and individual performances really do make the film, they never feel like that are married together. Too often you can tell that it’s lip synced, and sadly, that slightly spoilt it slightly for me, especially as I know Jamie Foxx really did play the piano throughout.

It’s not been quite 24 hours since I watched Ray, and so there is a chance it’s still sinking in and that I’m still “reflecting” on the emotions it made me feel, but right now I’m really not sure which way to turn regarding it. Whenever he was on stage performing, the movie comes alive. As I said it drew me in and left me sad that I can never experience those performance for real. But as soon as Ray steps away from the piano, away from the music, I just found him despicable, unlikable and unpleasant.

I know that it’s a recurring theme within the “entertainment” industries, that quite often people who appear likable and friendly – the type of person you’d take home to meet the parents or buy a drink for down the pub – while “performing”, while in the public eye, turn out to be horrible and controlling out of it; but Ray Charles just appeared to take it even further. He added egotistical to the mix, and at that point I just switched off. The story I was being given had drawn me in so well, that as it portrayed his ever increasing and destructive self belief and hype, I increasingly found myself pulling harder and harder away. To the point that as the movie was drawing to its conclusion, I almost wasn’t enjoying it. I almost just wanted it over.

The sense of rejection towards Ray Charles that grew as the movie progressed that allies badly with the lengthy running time serves to be arguably, for me, the biggest problem with the film. Ray just has too much filler. It is necessary on occasions to repeat a scene to reinforce an idea, his drug taking is a good example, but throughout Ray, there are scenes, mainly around his performances, that don’t serve any real purpose in driving the plot forward, or adding anything musically you haven’t already heard. I love the performances, they are the best bits of the film for me, but with some harder editing and less rose tinted eyes, I truly believe you could have cut Ray down to much closer to two hours without losing anything from the story, or the emotions and connections it makes.

Sadly though, as it is, having put off watching it for so long it’s left me so unsure about both: Ray Charles the person and the film, that I doubt I’ll bother watching it again.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.