Ray
Ray poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTaylor Hackford
Screenplay byJames L. White
Story by
  • Taylor Hackford
  • James L. White
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyPaweł Edelman
Edited byPaul Hirsch
Music byCraig Armstrong
Production
companies
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • October 29, 2004 (2004-10-29)
Running time
152 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$40 million[1]
Box office$124 million[1]

Ray is a 2004 American biographical musical drama film focusing on 30 years in the life of rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles.[2] The independently produced film was co-produced and directed by Taylor Hackford, and written by James L. White from a story by Hackford and White. It stars Jamie Foxx in the title role, along with Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell, Harry Lennix, Terrence Howard, Larenz Tate, Richard Schiff and Regina King in supporting roles. Along with Hackford, the film was also produced by Stuart Benjamin, Howard Baldwin and Karen Baldwin.

It was released on October 29, 2004, by Universal Pictures. It received positive reviews from critics, with particular praise for Foxx's performance. It was also a commercial success, grossing $124.7 million worldwide against a production budget of $40 million.

Ray received many accolades and nominations and was nominated in six categories at the 77th Academy Awards. For his performance, Foxx won the Academy Award for Best Actor as well as the Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, and Critics' Choice, becoming the second actor to win all five major lead actor awards for the same performance, and the only one to win the Golden Globe in the Musical or Comedy category, rather than in Drama.

Charles had planned to attend a screening of the completed film but died of liver disease in June 2004, months prior to the premiere.[3]

Plot

Ray Charles Robinson is raised in poverty in Florida by his mother, Aretha. Learning to play piano at an early age, Ray is haunted by the accidental death of his younger brother George, who drowns in their mother's washbasin. Ray loses his vision and by age seven is completely blind. Aretha teaches him to be independent, eventually sending him to a school for the deaf and blind.

In 1946, Ray joins a white country band and wears sunglasses to hide his damaged eyes. Two years later, he travels to Seattle and joins a nightclub band, though the club's owner demands sexual favors and controls his money and career. After discovering he is being exploited, Ray signs his own record deal and leaves the band. Touring on the Chitlin' Circuit as "Ray Charles", he is introduced to heroin.

Ray is discovered by Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records and records his first hit with Ertegun's song "Mess Around". In Houston, Ray falls in love with Della Bea, a preacher's daughter. Though she and others are unhappy about Ray mixing gospel with his music, he marries Della and continues to gain fame with "I Got a Woman" and "Hallelujah I Love Her So".

A pregnant Della finds Ray’s drug kit and confronts him. They reconcile after the birth of their first child, but Ray begins an affair with singer Mary Anne Fisher. In 1956, as Ray's popularity grows, he hires a trio to become "The Raelettes" and immediately falls for lead singer Margie Hendrix. They begin their own affair, and a jealous Mary Anne leaves.

A few years later, when Ray's band finishes a set early and the club’s owner demands they play the remaining time, Ray performs "What'd I Say" on the spot. His popularity rises through the 1950s and he moves his family to Los Angeles but continues to use heroin, straining his relationships with Della and Margie. In 1960, he signs a better contract with ABC Records, negotiating to own his master tapes.

Ray continues to experiment with his music, writing such hits as "Georgia on My Mind". Margie reveals she is pregnant, and cuts off their affair when Ray demands she end the pregnancy. He writes "Hit the Road Jack" with a solo by Margie, who uses her newfound recognition to embark on a solo career, while Ray struggles with his addiction.

In 1961, Ray encounters civil rights protestors outside his concert in Augusta, Georgia. Deciding not to play at the segregated venue, he cancels the concert and is banned from playing in Georgia. After he allows black and white audience members to dance together onstage during a concert in Indianapolis, his hotel room is raided by police. His arrest for heroin possession is made public, to Della’s dismay, but his record label has the charges dismissed.

In St. Louis, Ray performs the country-influenced "I Can't Stop Loving You" and is impressed by announcer Joe Adams, who joins his tour. Ray moves his family to Beverly Hills, and learns that Margie has died of an overdose. Joe alienates Ray’s band and his longtime friend and manager Jeff Brown, whom Ray fires.

In 1965, Ray returns from a concert in Montreal and is again arrested for heroin possession. Dismissing his excuses, Della pleads with him to overcome his habit, and he is sentenced to drug rehabilitation. Suffering vivid nightmares during withdrawal, Ray has a vision of George and their mother, who chastises him for letting his addictions cripple him.

By 1979, Ray has permanently quit heroin and receives an official apology from the state of Georgia, which names "Georgia On My Mind" the official state song. Ray goes on to have a long and successful career as a world-famous entertainer until his death in 2004.

Cast

Production

The film's production was entirely financed by Philip Anschutz, through his Bristol Bay Productions company. Taylor Hackford said in a DVD bonus feature that it took 15 years to make the film; or more specifically, as he later clarified in the liner notes of the soundtrack album, this is how long it took him to secure the financing. It was made on a budget of $40 million.

Charles was given a Braille copy of the film's original script; he objected only to a scene showing him taking up piano grudgingly, and a scene implying that Charles had shown mistress and lead "Raelette" Margie Hendricks how to shoot heroin.[3]

Denzel Washington was offered to play the title role, but he passed on the project.[4] As stated in the DVD commentary, Foxx does not sing as Charles with exception to cover versions Charles performs in his earlier years. Kanye West and Ludacris have since made songs with Foxx singing as Charles in their songs "Gold Digger" and "Georgia", respectively.

Hackford stated in the DVD commentary that while Anschutz said the film would be made, he demanded that it be PG-13, and this caused him to walk away from the film five times. Because of Charles and Ahmet Ertegun asked him to make the movie, he agreed to do the film as a PG-13 rating. The film was rated PG-13 for "depiction of drug addiction, sexuality and some thematic elements".

In the DVD commentary, Hackford stated that no studio was interested in backing the movie. After it was shot independently, Universal Pictures stepped in to distribute it. Part of the reason Universal Pictures released it was because one of its executives used to hitchhike to Ray Charles concerts.[4]

The film's score was composed by Craig Armstrong. Ray debuted at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival.

Soundtrack

Main article: Ray (soundtrack)

Reception

Box office

Ray was released in theaters on October 29, 2004. The film went on to become a box-office hit, earning $75 million in the U.S. with an additional $50 million internationally, bringing its worldwide gross to $125 million.[1]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 80% based on 206 reviews, with an average rating of 7.30/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "An engrossing and energetic portrait of a great musician's achievements and foibles, Ray is anchored by Jamie Foxx's stunning performance as Ray Charles."[5] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a rare "A+" grade.[7]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "The movie would be worth seeing simply for the sound of the music and the sight of Jamie Foxx performing it. That it looks deeper and gives us a sense of the man himself is what makes it special." Ebert gave it a full 4 out of 4 stars.[8] Richard Corliss of Time praised the cast, saying "If there were an Oscar for ensemble acting, Ray would win in a stroll."[9] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote: "Jamie Foxx gets so far inside the man and his music that he and Ray Charles seem to breathe as one."[10]

According to music critic Robert Christgau, "Foxx does the impossible—radiates something approaching the charisma of the artist he's portraying... that's the only time an actor has ever brought a pop icon fully to life on-screen."[11]

Awards

Main article: List of accolades received by Ray (film)

Related projects

In the wake of his performance as Charles in the film, Foxx featured on hip-hop songs that sampled Charles' songs:

Differences from noted events

The film's credits state that Ray is based on true events, but includes some characters, names, locations, and events which have been changed and others which have been "fictionalized for dramatization purposes." Examples of the fictionalized scenes include:

References

  1. ^ a b c "Ray (2004)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
  2. ^ Director Taylor Hackford noted this focus on the years 1935–1965 in his DVD commentary for the film; the only exception to this focus is the film's final scene featuring Julian Bond and set in the Georgia State Capitol in 1979, a scene Hackford included at Charles' specific request.
  3. ^ a b "Music legend Ray Charles dies at 73". Associated Press. October 10, 2004. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Ray (2004) - IMDb, retrieved 2021-03-21
  5. ^ "Ray (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  6. ^ "Ray". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  7. ^ Pamela McClintock (2011-08-11). "Why CinemaScore Matters for Box Office". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 28, 2004). "Ray movie review & film summary (2004)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  9. ^ Corliss, Richard (12 October 2004). "A Ray of Light on a Blue Genius". Time.
  10. ^ Travers, Peter (20 October 2004). "Ray". Rolling Stone.
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert (July 5, 2005). "All This Useless Beauty". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  12. ^ a b "Charles, Ray (1930–2004) – HistoryLink.org". historylink.org.
  13. ^ a b c Ritz, David (22 October 2004). "It's a Shame About Ray" – via Slate.
  14. ^ a b c d e f "History in the Movies". stfrancis.edu.
  15. ^ Evans, p. 109.
  16. ^ "A Lover's Blues: The Unforgettable Voice of Margie Hendrix". Longreads. 2020-09-02. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  17. ^ John Clemente, Girl Groups: Fabulous Females Who Rocked the World, AuthorHouse, 2013 , p.133