Prayer Focus
Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for depiction of drug addiction, sexuality and some thematic elements

Reviewed by: Rosemarie Ute Hoffman

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Drama, Musical Performing Arts
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 14, 2004 (festival)
October 29, 2004 (wide)
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Featuring: Jamie Foxx, Regina King, Kerry Washington, Richard Schiff, Aunjanue Ellis
Director: Taylor Hackford
Producer: Taylor Hackford, Stuart Benjamin, Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“The extraordinary life story of Ray Charles. A man who fought harder and went farther than anyone thought possible.”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “This is the musical biographical drama of American legend Ray Charles. Born in a poor town in Georgia, Ray Charles went blind at the age of seven shortly after witnessing his younger brother’s accidental death. Inspired by a fiercely independent mother who insisted he make his own way in the world, Charles found his calling and his gift behind a piano keyboard. Touring across the Southern musical circuit, the soulful singer gained a reputation and then exploded with worldwide fame when he pioneered incorporating gospel, country, jazz and orchestral influences into his inimitable style. As he revolutionized the way people appreciated music, he simultaneously fought segregation in the very clubs that launched him and championed artists’ rights within the corporate music business. “Ray” provides an portrait of Charles’ musical genius as he overcomes drug addiction while transforming into one of this country’s most beloved performers.”

Copyright, Universal Pictures


Ray is a compelling biographical drama of Ray Charles Robinson that will have you mesmerized due to Jaime Foxx’s realistic representation. Foxx’s classical training on the piano lend to his brilliant performance.

As a young boy at age seven, Ray Charles becomes blind, but more alarming, he turns into a cripple as an adult from the wiles of the world—sex and drugs. As his life progresses, Ray becomes painstakingly more immobilized with his addictions. However, recovery and restoration are attained, but only when he reaches the bottom—facing federal jail time. It is only then that he starts to push himself through physically, psychologically, and spiritually to find true peace.

Throughout the film, there are mysterious depictions of water and a dead body—a haunting of the premature death of Ray’s younger brother, George. Ray also has frequent flashbacks of his life on the farm with his mother. It is only after Ray’s recovery, as a drug addict, that he finally makes good on his promise to his mother.

As a blind black man in the 1950s, Ray eagerly sets out to share his passion of music with America. His quick-witted nature develops into good business strategy later on in his career. Still, his disability often made him feel like an outsider, even among his peers.

It was not long before Ray hooked up with a seedy manager and band members who saw him as nothing more then their “golden goose.” They were greedy, womanizers, and drug addicts, but Ray chose to live in their world. During this flesh-pleasing season of his life, there are many disturbing scenes of excessive drug use and conversations with sexual overtones. Not only does the movie show the use of heroine and its paraphernalia, it also illustrates the smoking of marijuana.

One of the few uplifting events is when Ray is alone “having church” while reading the Bible in braille with Gospel music playing in the background. It is then that a representative (Curtis Armstrong) from Atlantic Records pays him a visit to make a deal. Signing with Atlantic Records proves to be a success. It is a nurturing environment where Ray finds his own unique style and expresses it—blending Gospel with Rhythm and Blues. Though some dubbed him an innovator, there were many who opposed his misuse of God’s music for sex as sacrilegious. Although, this would not be the only time Ray would experience opposition.

The state of Georgia banned Ray Charles from performing there for life because he refused to entertain to a segregated audience. It is here that Ray finds his inner voice speaking out loudly and boldly. The ban was reversed in 1979 and done with a public apology, and with a proclamation that the state song would be Georgia on My Mind.

A hard lesson was learned early on when a young Ray falls in his family’s one room shack crying for help, while only a few steps away stood his silenced mother. At that instant, he finds an inner strength to rise, and turns up the dials on his remaining senses. This laid the foundation and gave Ray the strength to carry himself through to live successfully with his blindness. And, with diligence and persistence, his mother instills in him that the world would not be so forgiving, and that he would have to do things for himself regardless.

Ray was in love with his wife (Kerry Washington), but with the antics of the flesh coupled with negative influences quickly changed a dedicated man into a man who lived two lives. While he financially takes care of his family and occasionally visits the home front, most of his time is on the road touring and committing adultery with various women. One of the women in the band, Marjorie (Regina King) becomes pregnant with his son. She later dies from a drug overdose, which had a profound effect on him.

Ray Charles Robinson was born with a gift to reach beyond his small town borders, and as he set out to fulfill his destiny he discovered false securities. Nevertheless, he found his way back to where he had begun, with a promise in his heart and love to carry him through it all.

God’s Word reminds us also of His promise in our hearts, and love to carry us through.

John 16:33—“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

John 17:13-16—“These things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Violence: Minor Profanity: Moderate Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Viewer Comments
Positive—Ray depicts the life of the singer Ray Charles in every aspect. His life was not one that would be defined as moral or righteous. But his life was filled with many obstacles such as witnessing his brother’s death, going blind and falling to the way side by indulging in drugs and adulterous affairs. It seems that his fall was based upon his desire to escape the pain of blaming himself for his brother’s death. This is a real life story which can be used to examine the pitfalls of turning to people or drugs to ease our pains. It can, also, be used to show what can be accomplished in spite of our handicaps.

The movie, Ray, was excellent in terms of the acting and directing. There were moments where I felt as though I was looking at Ray Charles and not Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Stephanie Kim, age 42
Negative—This movie had fabulous performances, but horrible editing. Whatever you do, do NOT watch the extended version. Even the regular version was just way way too long, and the story was all over the place. Your kids would be bored to death, and to be honest, adults will be, too; I actually fell in and out of sleep during chunks of this movie and did not actually see it’s entirety, but I have a feeling I didn’t miss much. The actors all gave amazingly believable performances though and definitely deserve kudos for this. If you can appreciate a movie for purely the actors performances then go see this. If not, don’t bother.
My Ratings: [Average/1½]
—Kat, age 19
Negative—I did not view the entire movie “Ray.” I shut it off half way through. I think we have become so “sophisticated” as Christians that we forget the words of David “I will set no vile thing before my eyes.” and the words of Paul “It is shameful even to mention what the wicked do in secret.” Garbage in = garbage out of our lives.

I knew that the movie would try to cast some positive light on a life of adultery and excess, but to me, the ends did not justify the means, i.e.: a good ending doesn’t justify taking in all the cr*p along the way. The question here is not weather Jamie Fox did a brilliant job of acting which may well be. The question is, was it spiritually healthy to watch at all? I think not.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Roger J. Blager, age 34
Positive—Because of the issues of sexual sin and drug addiction, this would certainly not be a film suited for the younger or immature audience. That being established, I personally feel it is an excellent study in how a naive young man can be drawn into serious sins when he finds himself in the spotlight with enormous talent and cheering fans… and then corrects his course through determination and re-dedication. Reminds me of certain Biblical accounts. Should we not be cautious in our readiness to judge? Additionally, the film IS a biography of a very well known and generally admired American. We should draw wisdom from the study of how others recover from their sins… again, as from Scripture or in local support groups dealing with personal and marital problems.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Paul, age 59
Positive—It is refreshing in that it does not sugarcoat any aspect of his life, despite the fact that Mr. Charles was still alive while it was being filmed. Jamie Foxx does an excellent job. The famed musician’s life is a journey that eventually leads him home in a sense. It reminded me of the story of the prodigal son, who has to learn the hard way that following the world and living for the world brings nothing but heartaches. A good film for discussion about being in the world, but not of it.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Hillari Hunter, age 43
Positive—This is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. I was surprised that it wasn’t rated “R” with all the sexual and drug content. (I definitely wouldn’t let my 13 yr. old see it and he’s pretty mature for his age.) I realize the content was necessary to accurately portray Ray Charles’ life, but should have earned a higher rating. With that said, Ray is sad, funny and very moving. Jamie Foxx did an amazing job!! It’s a movie you won’t soon forget.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Rachelle Smotherman, age 31
Negative—Well, I almost finished watching this long movie. What a depressing life this guy led. I feel sorry for him now more than I appreciate his music. As I was watching this Academy Award nominee, all I kept thinking was “what a travesty that this movie was nominated and ‘The Passion’ was not.” I can only hope there was a happy ending, but I was too bored to stick around and find out.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Michael A., age 36
PositiveJamie Foxx deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance as Ray Charles in “Ray.” That is the best thing I can say about the movie. I am not personally a fan of Ray Charles. And this film does have offenses for the christian viewer such as drug use. But overall, mature viewers will probably be caught up in this interesting story about Ray Charles and his music. The plot is worthwhile, the music is performed well and the acting is great. And there is even an element of redemption in the story. Worth watching, even if you are not a Ray Charles fan.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—Todd Adams, age 37
Negative—I watched this movie expecting to see a biography on the life of a wonderful musician, but sex, drugs and profanity were the only thing displayed. I was very offended.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Angie Smith, age 22
Positive—This is one of the best films I’ve ever seen in my life. The acting is incredible. Jamie Foxx deserves not just the nomination, but the Oscar for best actor. Also, there were numerous moments in the movie that brought me to tears. Well worth viewing.

As for the drug and sexual content, I disagree that that makes it unsuitable for children to watching but I would strongly recommend parental guidance. The fact is that such things are a reality in our world. Prevention has always been the best strategy against combating these problems. The more ignorant a person is, the more susceptible they are to fall.

On the other hand, the better someone is educated and informed, the more likely it is that they will make the right decisions.

“Ray’s” portrayal of adultery, drugs and drug addiction, and the consequences of such is realistic, but without being gratuitous, and so can serve as a good starting point for a parent to talk with their teen about these things and why they should avoid doing such things.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Jeremy, age 32
Neutral—Ray is by far one of the best biopics that I have ever seen. Though not completely accurate (Ray Charles was an even worse adulterer than shown), it doesn’t attempt to show Ray Charles as anything other than what he was: a very gifted musician who’s sin almost destroyed his life and the lives of those around him. Jamie Foxx deserved the Best Actor award he won. It was a fabulous performance.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Michael, age 47
Movie Critics
…The performance is sure to garner a Best Actor nomination for Foxx…
—Sun Newspapers of Cleveland
…it never once crosses your mind that you’re watching an actor play Ray Charles…
—Ty Burr, Boston Globe
…the music is simply glorious…
—E! Online
…Definitely worth watching…
—Annabelle Robertson, Crosswalk