October 27, 2004: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: Philadelphia Inquirer: Director Taylor Hackford (RPCV Bolivia), who worked with the jazz/R&B/country/pop star for 15 years in an effort to get his story on film, might have been too close to his subject

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bolivia: Peace Corps Bolivia : The Peace Corps in Bolivia: October 27, 2004: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: Philadelphia Inquirer: Director Taylor Hackford (RPCV Bolivia), who worked with the jazz/R&B/country/pop star for 15 years in an effort to get his story on film, might have been too close to his subject

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-9-111.balt.east.verizon.net - 141.157.9.111) on Saturday, October 30, 2004 - 12:00 am: Edit Post

Director Taylor Hackford (RPCV Bolivia), who worked with the jazz/R&B/country/pop star for 15 years in an effort to get his story on film, might have been too close to his subject

Director Taylor Hackford (RPCV Bolivia), who worked with the jazz/R&B/country/pop star for 15 years in an effort to get his story on film, might have been too close to his subject

Director Taylor Hackford (RPCV Bolivia), who worked with the jazz/R&B/country/pop star for 15 years in an effort to get his story on film, might have been too close to his subject

Ray'

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Jamie Foxx has Ray Charles down.

In "Ray," an otherwise depressingly conventional biopic, the actor brings the singer and musician to blood-pumping, nerve-jangling life. Cocking his head sideways, walking and talking in cadences familiar to anyone who ever saw the man in concert or on television, Foxx is uncanny. It's a performance that goes well beyond mimicry. It's lived-in. It's empathic. It's practically telepathic. The guy who engraves those Oscar statuettes can get a jump on things right now, if he wants to.

So it's a shame about "Ray," because Foxx is trapped in a movie that takes the music icon's unique story and turns it into cheesy, sentimental American Dream cliches.

Director Taylor Hackford, who worked with the jazz/R&B/country/pop star for 15 years in an effort to get his story on film, might have been too close to his subject. Charles' heroin addiction and womanizing aren't downplayed, exactly, but they become genericized. Yeah, he popped needles into his veins and sired a mess of illegitimate children, but that's just life on the road, right?

That's what's so wrong with "Ray" - that Hackford, who produced the similarly templated 1987 Richie Valens biopic, "La Bamba," does nothing writing-wise nor stylistically to bring sophistication and nuance to the telling of the tale.

The amazing plot points of Charles' biography (and they are amazing) get muted by less than extraordinary narrative devices, and less than extraordinary casting. (Those guys playing Atlantic Records music execs Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler - you've got to be kidding!)

Charles' determination in the face of daunting obstacles was, indeed, awe-inspiring. But it would have been nice to have less awe from the filmmakers.

The performer - who died four months ago at age 73 - was born in poverty, in rural Georgia. He witnessed the freak drowning of his brother and was tortured with guilt because of it. He lost his sight shortly thereafter, when he was 7, and was sent to a state-run school for the blind by a hard-toiling mother (Sharon Warren) who could have written the handbook on tough love.

By 17, he was touring the chitlin circuit as pianist in Lowell Fulson's band, enduring the indignities of racism, learning to fend for himself when it came to money (he insisted on being paid in $1 bills, so he couldn't be cheated) and women. He crosses paths with a scrappy Quincy Jones and comes into his own in the 1950s, thanks to his young wife, Della Bea (Kerry Washington), who urged him to jettison his chameleonlike vocal skills (he could mimic any of the day's hitmakers) and develop his own inimitable sound.

A savvy businessman and a sorry excuse for a parent and spouse, Charles broke down both racial and musical barriers in his decades-spanning, stellar career.

There's something else, apart from Foxx's portrayal, that saves the film from utter mediocrity: the music. Using Charles' original recordings - some familiar, others newly unearthed - "Ray" boasts a glorious songbook of rhythm-and-blues, bop, boogie, jazz, country and pure pop.

It's the soundtrack of a life, quite literally.

___

RAY

2 stars

Produced by Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin, Taylor Hackford and Stuart Benjamin, directed by Hackford, written by James L. White, photography by Pawel Edelman, music by Ray Charles and various artists, distributed by Universal Pictures.

Running time: 2 hours, 33 mins.

Ray Charles/Jamie Foxx

Della Bea/Kerry Washington

Margie Hendricks/Regina King

Jeff Brown/Clifton Powell

Parent's guide: PG-13 (profanity, sexual content, drugs, adult themes)

(c) 2004, The Philadelphia Inquirer.





When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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RPCV Carl Pope says the key to winning this election is not swaying undecided voters, but persuading those already willing to vote for your candidate to actually go to the polls.

Take our poll and tell us what you are doing to support your candidate.

Finally read our wrap-up of the eight RPCVs in Senate and House races around the country and where the candidates are in their races.

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Story Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Bolivia; Movies; Music; Hollywood

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