Published Nov 01, 2004It's a rarity to encounter Oscar buzz in September, yet the name Jamie Foxx is on the lips of many due to his breakout role as blind and influential soul man Ray Charles in the bio-pic Ray. Unlike his Ali cast mate Will Smith, Foxx embodies rather than imitates his legendary subject. It is particularly difficult in this age of television to portray someone the public knows extremely well. Not since Denzel Washington's Malcolm X has this been pulled off so completely.
Biographies have a penchant for downplaying the less admirable qualities of their subjects but this is not the case here. Sanctioned by Charles before his death, Ray shows him warts and all through heroin addiction, insensitivity to loyal friends and mental abuse towards his suffering wife (Kerry Washington) and long-time mistress Margie (effectively played by Regina King).
Margie is featured as a back-up singer in musical sequences and as the inspiration for one of Charles's biggest hits, "Hit The Road Jack," which is handled with humour and honesty. The songs throughout are performed expertly and Foxx and King's musical talents are obvious even though they are lip-synching.
However, there are small script problems. Flashbacks in the form of mental associations, manifested by Charles's memories of witnessing his younger brother's death, are jarring at first and tend to upset the narrative flow.
The main slip-up that most will notice is the stunted ending. Ray's feelings of guilt and despair about his past get a happy, though tacked-on, resolution when suddenly an epilogue appears describing the next 40 years of his life in only seconds. At a clocking of over two-and-a-half hours, director Taylor Hackford could easily have sliced some of the many scenes of Charles's woman troubles and instead concocted a more satisfying finale. (Universal)