The film opens at the very beginning of Ray Charles’ career, as he makes his way to Seattlefor his first paying gigs with an unscrupulous band leader and manager. We see him grow inconfidence and artistry, soon becoming a force to be reckoned with. Intercutting his rise areflashbacks to his childhood, and specifically the accidental death of his little brother and his ownloss of sight. In the present, we also see his womanizing personal life and his descent into drugaddicti…n.
Much has already been said about Jamie Foxx’s performance, and I won’t become redundanthere, other than to second the praise. But it is also true that we are talking about a five starperformance in a three star movie. The film follows traditional (or cliched) biopic conventions.The scenes showing the development of his music and his industry clout are fascinating, butevery time we move to the Troubled Personal Life scenes, the movie slams to a halt, and at timesthe cheese factor goes through the roof.
Very, very nice audio. The music sounds spectacular, and combined with the energy of theperformances, is quite exhilarating. The placement of the surround effects is excellent, too. Thisis perhaps most vividly experienced in the scene where the young Ray learns to used his ears toguide himself through the world.
If the film is a mixed bag, one of its strengths is its look. The colours are wonderfullyevocative of the 40s and 50s, and the transfer looks gorgeous. Perfectly sharp, grain free, andblessed with wonderful contrasts and superb blacks, this is one fine looking DVD.
Disc 1 gives one the option of watching the theatrical release of the film, or an extendedversion. This last, over 25 minutes longer, makes an already lengthy film over three hours long.Also here, along with very extensive cast & crew bios and filmographies, is a commentary trackby director Taylor Hackford. He is articulate, enthusiastic and interesting, and covers bothtechnical and thematic concerns.
Hackford shows up again on Disc 2, doing commentary for the 14 deleted scenes (one ofwhich is a collection of Foxx ad libs). There are 2 extended music sequences, and threefeaturettes. While obviously promotional, two of them — “Stepping Into the Part” (which hasfootage of Ray Charles and Jamie Foxx jamming together) and “Ray Remembered” — have someinterest, while “A Look Inside Ray” is typical fluff. Rounding things out are the theatricaltrailer plus a preview for Cinderella Man. The menu’s main screen, intro and transitionsare animated and scored, while the next screens down are scored.
Looks great, sounds fabulous, and the performances are universally excellent. The actualnarrative is what could use work.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- Extended Version
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- Extended Music Scenes
- Bios and Filmographies
- “Stepping Into the Part” Featurette
- “Ray Remembered” Featurette
- “A Look Inside Ray” Featurette
- Theatrical Trailers