‘Ray’ – Jamie Foxx is R&B legend Ray Charles on Peacock

Jamie Foxx is electric as Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford’s biographical drama Ray (2004).

The film sweeps us from his humble beginnings as an R&B piano man in Seattle in the early 1950s through his rocket-ride to the top of the R&B and pop charts (and his heroin addiction and philandering along the way) to his successful rehab in the mid-1960s, with sun-burned flashbacks in the red dirt Florida shanty town of his youth in between. It hits all the familiar beats of the Hollywood biopic, with a greatest hits approach to Ray’s story and musical numbers that light up the film. The creation of Charles’ signature number “What I’d Say,” cooked up as an improvisation to fill out at nightclub set, is nothing short of musical magic.

While the film tends to the melodramatic, Foxx’s performance is anything but. Hackford doesn’t pretend Ray is a boy scout and Foxx plays him as a decent guy who can do some pretty inconsiderate things, and then smile and aw-shucks his way through troubles, while his amazing ability to mimic Ray in performance—along with the power of Charles’ music—gives the film its charge. It’s an inspired performance that creates a complex character out of the pop music legend.

Kerry Washington is Della Bea Robinson, the woman who became his wife, and Regina King and Aunjanue Ellis are two of the back-up singers, the Raylettes, who became his mistresses. Clifton Powell costars as the bus driver turned personal assistant Jeff Brown and Sharon Warren is brilliant as his mother Aretha Robinson. Also costars Harry Lennix, Bokeem Woodbine, Curtis Armstrong, Richard Schiff, Larenz Tate, Terrence Howard, and Wendell Pierce.

Jamie Foxx won the Academy Award for his performance, one of two earned by the film, which was also nominated for best picture and director. Foxx also earned a BAFTA, Image Award, Golden Globe, National Society of Film Award, and numerous awards from critics groups around the country.

Rated PG-13

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Ray [Blu-ray]
Ray [DVD]

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The Blu-ray and DVD releases include director commentary, two documentary featurettes, deleted scenes, and the uncut versions of two musical performances featured in the film.

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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