"Baby, when I walk out that door I walk out alone in the dark. I’m
trying to do something ain’t nobody ever done in music and business.
But I can’t do it if I’m alone everywhere I go. I don’t wanna be alone
here, Bea. Not in my own home. Look, Bea, if you don’t understand me,
then who will?"
After 15 years of trying to get the movie made, Taylor Hackford finally
got his movie about the life and times of musical legend Ray Charles
made. But this isn’t a Taylor Hackford movies. As good as he is, this
isn’t a Jamie Foxx movie. The reason this movie works is because the
Ray Charles story is universally interesting. First of all, a blind
piano player is something people don’t expect. Nevermind the fact that
most musicians you want on tv spend literally no time staring at their
hands. That’s neither here nor there, though. Ray Charles started
playing music over a half century ago. He was among the first artists
that combined R&B with gospel music. Keep in mind that 50 years
ago, racism was very much still tearing this country apart. He was
actually banned from performing in the state of Georgia. While he is
now viewed in a very nostalgic way, at the time, Ray Charles was really
pushing the limits of what was considered appropriate. Besides being
blind, having a career that spanned 50 years, and having numerous hits,
he also had some personal demons that almost haunted him. He was a
ladies man, as apparent by his two divorces, 12 children with seven
different women, and numerous girlfriends. He was also addicted to
heroin for nearly 20 years. To accomplish all that he accomplished
after going through all that he went through was very impressive.
Now I should move onto the reason everyone seemed to be talking about
the movie which was the performance by Jamie Foxx. Everyone knows him
from his comedy, but recently he’s been excellent in a few serious
roles (Collateral, Ali, Any Given Sunday). So, did he live up to his
best actor billing? Time and time again, random people tell me that
some tv show is the funniest, some movie is the greatest, or some music
is the catchiest only to let me down time and time again. You have to
understand, coming into this movie, I was absolutely expecting Jamie
Foxx’s performance to be the best I’d seen in quite some time. Anything
less would be a disappointment in my eyes. Because Ray Charles died
this year, I just sort of predicted I was going to be disaapointed, but
Jamie Foxx blew away even my high expectations. I’m not the first
person to say it, but Jamie Foxx was Ray Charles. When I’m watching a
Tom Hanks or Denzel Washington movie, it’s always in the back of my
mind that I’m watching Tom Hanks or Denzel Washington. From the time
the movie starts, you actually think you are watching a young Ray
Charles. It’s quite remarkable.
One of my problems with the dvd is the inclusion of the extended cut.
It isn’t done the way it is supposed to be done, had they wanted to
include a director’s cut. Every time you would get to an extra scene,
the movie would pause for a few seconds before starting up again. I
tried on three different dvd players and it always did the same thing.
Video & Sound
Part of this score is going to be docked just because the branching of
the extended cut is so awful. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to
detract from the score of the movie, but it’s definitely something that
affects what I feel is an otherwise okay presentation. There was
nothing that wowed me about the video. The soft look seems like it was
intentional, but it definitely doesn’t do anything to impress me. The
sound isn’t much better. I understand that Ray Charles music was
originally recorded in either mono or 2-channel stereo, so it doesn’t
bother me that the music isn’t just buzzing throughout the surrounds.
As a whole, though, the sound was a bit of a disappointment.
There isn’t a lot here, but this is a fine example of a disc that does
a lot with a little. First up is a commentary track with director
Taylor Hackford. While ideally I would’ve loved to have heard a Jamie
Foxx/Ray Charles track, it just wasn’t possible. Mr. Hackford does and
outstanding job. You can tell he truly has a passion for the project by
the way he talks about it. It’s good without being too "butt-kissy." By
the way, I don’t know that anyone has ever used the term "butt-kissy"
in the history of the English language. You’re reading history ladies
and gentlemen! My favorite feature on the disc only lasts a couple
minutes, but features Foxx and Charles interacting – from playing piano
to just hanging out together. It’s very cool because you get to see Ray
Charles the way I remember him – the lovable old man who always had a
smiled and always seemed to make others around him smile. Very cool!
There is a four minute featurette where people say some of their
thoughts and memories of Ray. Again, it’s a cool feature but it would
have been even better if they extended it to even about 10 minutes or
so. Everything else included is just okay… maybe worth watching once,
but definitely not anymore than that. The extras will get a high score
but it’s mostly for the great commentary and the Foxx/Charles
A great performance by Jamie Foxx coupled with a great story make this
a (surprise!) great movie. Plus, how many other movies can you see that
feature a minor part for the guy that played Willow?
Movie – 9
Video & Sound – 6
Extras – 7
Overall – 7