Directed by Taylor Hackford, starring Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Harry J Lennix, Bookeem Woodbine and Anjaune Ellis.
Unlike the slew of biopics which have emerged over the past two years ('Sylvia', 'De-Lovely', 'Beyond the Sea' to name a few), 'Ray' has the distinction that its titular subject, the late soul legend Ray Charles, was both alive when it was being made and gave it his blessing. And your admiration for the man grows even further when you see that he backed a film which doesn't shy away from depicting his flaws and failures.
Beginning in Northern Florida in 1948, 'Ray' takes you through three decades of Charles' life: fighting prejudice on two fronts; his time playing clubs; breaking out as a solo artist; stardom; taking a stand against segregation; being haunted by memories of his little brother's death; battling drug addiction and engaging in extra marital affairs. It looks great, the eras are perfectly captured, the supporting cast is faultless and, for the first hour, Hackford gets the pacing just right. In the second however, the film begins to drag a little, relying too much on music when more drama was what was really needed. Just as the film is getting into Charles kicking heroin it ends - such an abrupt halt a major mistake in a film that has a running time of over two-and-a-half hours.
What keeps you watching even when you're getting a little numb on the seat is Foxx. Hackford was trying to get this film made for nearly 15 years, but perhaps that wait can be considered destiny as it led him to his star. Having already won the Golden Globe, Foxx is a favourite for the Oscar, and he would make a worthy winner. His take on Charles is brilliant and raises the bar even higher for actors in biopics.
Like its subject, 'Ray' has its faults, but Foxx's performance is the most fitting of tributes.