Review by Jon Waterman
Ray Charles Robinson went blind at the age of seven. That didnít stop him from living as complete a life as possible. His mother taught him to do things on his own and to not let a lack of sight hinder his vision and his aspirations. Ray took that to heart and headed up to Seattle to start his career as a professional jazz pianist. His skills were apparent from the beginning, and he quickly got bigger and bigger deals. He dropped the Robinson from his name and embarked on a recording career that would continue for over four decades.
His life sounds pretty good summed up like that, doesnít it? We all know that Ray Charles is a legendary, talented musician. What we may not know is what the movie focuses on. This is the first biopic to come out in a long time that avoids sugar coating any aspect of the subjectís life. At no point did I envy him. It seemed less like a celebration of his life and more of an exorcism. All of his demons are exposed and wrenched out on the screen. I gotta hand it to first time writer James L. White. He managed to make the movie interesting for a potentially painful one hundred fifty two minutes. I could have gone longer, actually. The film covers the most tumultuous years and then very very briefly glances over the rest in the span of five minutes. Some of the dialogue was quite clichťd, but the performances helped greatly to diffuse that.
Virtually all of the characters in the film had some level of depth. Often times it was minimal based solely on the amount of screen time they received, but the wide array of dynamic personalities made for a much richer environment. Sharon Warren (as Rayís mother) stood out to me. She had to exude a complex range of emotions, and thereís no question that she pulled it off. Even Bokeem Woodbine (as band mate Fathead Newman), who had previously shown me nothing that proves he belongs in the business, impressed me with his characterís subtle progression. Of course, the stand out is Ray, I mean, Jamie Foxx. Foxx is just a dead ringer physically. The movements, the smile, the posture and poise are all pitch perfect. The acting is fantastic, too. A very far cry from ďBait.Ē Itís amazing that the two biggest hams from ďIn Living ColorĒ have turned out to be such revered actors. This is definitely one of the best performances of the year.
Director Taylor Hackford and Cinematographer Pawel Edelman put the whole thing together in a visually dark, yet appealing manner. Iíd like to thank Taylor for sparing us from any blind or near blind point-of-view shots. I also appreciate the use of red/orange flashes in between shots. It turned out to be a good effect that wasnít beaten to death. I wish the movie had forced us to pay more attention to the details of the surroundings like Ray had to. As it was, I felt a little distanced and unable to connect fully with anything besides the music.
Despite a deep connection with Ray, it is an incredibly emotional, moving film. The feelings are perfectly punctuated by the music. It was a wise decision to not have Foxx sing these classic songs. These are sung in a way that only Rayís distinctive voice could sing them. The whole film was handled nicely and couldnít be executed much better. This definitely beats ďThe Aviator.Ē
Review by Jon Waterman
The infuriated Marcus takes Pierre along on a journey through the streets to exact revenge. Earlier that night, while the two men were inside laughing and dancing and making out with various women at a large house party, Marcusí girlfriend Alex was being raped and brutally beaten. Pierre, Alexís ex, tries to keep Marcus calm, but to no avail. He wonít stop until someone pays for what they did. Now they just have to find the guy.
I basically told you the entire plot just now, but thatís okay, because youíll learn it within the first scene. This film moves backwards. Y goes to Z, then X goes to Y, and W goes to X, etc. until you end at A to B. I know what youíre thinking. Yes, youíve seen it before. But this movie moves more fluidly than ďMemento.Ē Thereís nothing to really figure out. There are no clues or puzzles to solve while watching. Also, you donít have to deal with potentially distracting flashbacks. Yet, no matter how you slice it, itís a gimmick.
Technically the film looks very good. Iíll get into that more a tiny bit later. (See what Iím doing there? Messing with the structure. Ah, you donít care.) However, the film could have worked just as well chronologically or the way it was presented. There are certain little snippets of dialogue that are inserted that make sense later on in the film, but there are as many snippets that make sense in reference to what youíve already watched. Either way, the tactic verges on hokey, but somehow narrowly escapes that fate. The reason it breaks away from being corny is because itís contrasted so well with the harsher segments. On the one hand, you have three people carrying on a very mundane conversation about sex or about a party or whatever, and on the other you have an exhaustingly long sequence where all you see is horrendous activity. Itís balanced out in the long run.
The violence is quite vivid. Your eyes wonít be shielded from anything. The rape sequence isnít even the worst of it. In fact, the sheer length, while unbearable, is simply too long. Near the start of the film, thereís a much bloodier, more gruesome scene to watch. Itís shorter and more concise and thus lingers that much more.
The style of the film is probably its most annoying and most endearing quality (if anything in the film can be considered endearing). Auteur director Gaspar Noť (also writer, producer, editor and sometimes cinematographer Ė along with BenoÓt Debie) thoroughly planned out the whirlwind visuals. The camera is almost always moving, sweeping the terrain in one-winged angel-like maneuvers. It rests on the important stuff when need be, but otherwise, it floats around seemingly aimlessly. For some it could be disorienting, but the camera movements remarkably donít blur the images you see. Itís steady and deliberate and executed very well with the help of seamless edits.
The gimmick tries to counteract the weaknesses, or is used as an excuse for the lack of a more complex storyline. This movie is not for the faint of heart and those with weak stomachs. Those predisposed to motion sickness might also want to stay away. Those looking for pure originality or a stunningly good movie will probably be disappointed.