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Film / Ray

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"If you wanna do something to make Mama proud, promise me you'll never let nobody turn you into no cripple. You won't become no charity case. An’ you will always stand on your own two feet."
Aretha Robinsonnote 

Ray is a 2004 Biopic based on the life and career of legendary R&B musician Ray Charles, who passed away shortly before its release. The film is dedicated to him.

Jamie Foxx plays Charles as the film shows him from his humble roots in Florida as he became blind, to his first performances in clubs, to reaching mainstream success in the 1950s and the 1960s with his unique blend of Country, Gospel, Jazz and Orchestral influences, all while dealing with racial segregation, his blindness, and a heroin addiction.

The film was a huge critical and financial success, earning Foxx the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Ray provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Ray calls Ahmet Ertegun "Omelet" on his first meeting. This may well be an example of Obfuscating Stupidity, as he alludes to playing "country dumb" after he and Ahmet work out a very mutually lucrative deal.
  • Artistic License – History: Like many biopics, the film takes some liberties with what actually occurred in Real Life mostly for Rule of Drama.
    • The film portrays the death of Ray's younger brother George with 5 or 6-year-old Ray frozen in shock as George drowns in a laundry tub, when in reality, Ray actually tried to save him. He unfortunately wasn't able to due to George's large weight and ran to his mother for help.
    • The scene with Ahmet Ertegun discussing with Ray his concerns over Ray's drug use actually happened with Eric Clapton.
    • The scene where Ray decides to never play for segregated audiences has him persuaded by a single protester. In reality, Ray was convinced to not perform at segregated concerts via telegrams from civil rights groups, not a live street demonstration. Despite this, Ray would later accept invitations to play before segregated audiences. Additionally, Ray was never banned from playing in the state of Georgia in 1961, doing so countless times afterward. As such, the Georgia state legislature's "resolution" to overturn that ban never occurred in 1979. Ray's rendition of "Georgia on My Mind" did, however, become the official state song.
    • Ray did conceive a child, Charles Wayne Hendricks, with his backing singer Margie Hendricks (played by Regina King), but he never asked her to have an abortion like he did in the film and welcomed any child he had whether from his wife Della or otherwise. Also, Margie Hendricks died in 1973, not 1964 like in the film.
      • Related to the above, Ray had 12 children with 10 different women (3 with wife Della), but only two of these extramarital affairs get any significant focus (Mary Ann Fisher and Margie Hendrix) and only one of these illegitimate children is referred to. Additionally, he and Della divorced in 1977, but are depicted as still together at the film's conclusion, which took place in 1979.
    • Ray really did kick his heroin habit after going into treatment, but the film omits his heavy use of marijuana and alcohol as substitutes for the remainder of his life. Indeed: according to most accounts, he spent most of his later life as a functioning alcoholic.
    • David "Fathead" Newman (1933–2009), played by Bokeem Woodbine in the film, praised Foxx's performance as Charles, but has disputed the accuracy of the film's portrayal of him, particularly the scene where he introduces Ray to heroin.
    • In the film's narrative, Margie Hendrix dies of a drug overdose, but in real life, the official cause of her death remains unknown, as no autopsy was ever performed.
  • Bedmate Reveal: As Ray takes a phone call while he prepares another heroin fix, we see his bedmate Mary Ann sit up and ask "Is that your wife?"
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Ray is horribly traumatized by the death of his little brother George, who drowned in a wash bin.
  • Determinator: Ray's mom forces him to never be a cripple and to never let anyone take advantage of him.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Ray's mother instills this into him, alongside the Determinator trope: to ensure that nobody should ever pity him for his condition and that he will stand on his own.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Ray Charles' drug addiction, which gets him trouble with the law, and eventually Bea hates seeing him get too loaded to spend time with his children.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Ray finally achieves his greatest honor: "Sweet Georgia on My Mind", becoming the state song of Georgia. After overcoming poverty, prejudice, blindness, his dead brother, and drug addiction.
  • Everyone Has Standards: The racist bus driver Ray encounters has little sympathy for his blindness, but agrees to help Ray after he makes up a sob story about being a vet.
  • Foreshadowing: Ray telling Della Bea that his father had three different families, presumably why he was never in Ray's life. Ray himself, has multiple families when he starts his infidelity with other women.
  • Functional Addict: Ray. His criticism of other band members for showing up to work drunk or stoned seems hypocritical, until he truthfully points out that he never lets his drug use affect his work.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Ray suggests that Margie have one when she tells him she's pregnant, but she refuses.
  • Graceful Loser: When Ray jumps ship from Atlantic Records to ABC Records due to the latter offering him a better deal than Atlantic can match, Jerry Wexler sees him as an Ungrateful Bastard, but Ahmet (the one who discovered Ray for Atlantic in the first place) sincerely expresses pride in him.
  • Hallucinations: Ray sees visions of his dead brother, which is pretty interesting what with being blind and all.
  • It's All My Fault: Ray blames himself for the death of his brother.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Wilbur, the Jerkass manager during Ray's time at Swing Time Records, tells band leader Lowell Fulsom that Ray's music won't even hit the charts.
  • The Mistress: Mary Ann Fisher and Margie Hendricks.
  • Mononymous Biopic Title: "Ray", naturally.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Ray demonstrates what he calls "Country Dumb" to make people underestimate him, both to test Ahmet Ertegun's forthrightness as well as squeeze out a record deal "better than Sinatra gets" from ABC-Paramount.
  • Poor Man's Substitute: In-Universe. Ray's first recording sessions for Atlantic Records are a disappointment, as he is clearly trying to be a knockoff of other, more famous singers. "No-one wants another Nat King Cole," Atlantic songwriter and arranger Jesse Stone groans.
  • Renamed to Avoid Association: In-universe. Ray uses his first and middle name as a Stage Name instead of his full name, Ray Charles Robinson, so he wouldn't be confused with famed boxer "Sugar Ray" Robinson.
  • Scare Chord: When Ray's brothers arms come out of the wet suitcase.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Ray gets banned from performing in Georgia because he refuses to play for a segregated audience. The ban eventually gets lifted. The scene is only half true, however. In real life, Ray refused to play, but he only ended up having to pay the promoter compensation.
  • Sexual Extortion: Marlene, the club owner at a nightclub Ray is first employed at exploits him like this, demanding sex in exchange for room and board.
  • Stealing from the Till: Ray fires Jeff for ripping off his money.
  • Tough Love: A recurring theme throughout the movie. Ray's mother pushes him so that his blindness won't hold him back. Bea chews out Ray for using drugs around Margie when she overdosed even though he didn't give her any himself and tried to keep her away from them, and calls him out on putting his drug use above everything else to get him to quit before it costs him everything that matters to him.
  • Warts and All: Ray Charles was given a Braille copy of the script to read before production began, and he only objected to two scenes: the original draft had him being forced to learn piano (he expressed an interest on his own) and had him sharing drugs with Margie Hendricks (he refused to let her try heroin because he knew what it was doing to him). Other than that, the script was unchanged and included his ruthless business dealings, adultery, and struggles with addiction.
  • What If the Baby Is Like Me: When his first son is born, Ray (who's blind) asks Della Bea if he has every body organ intact.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Bea gives Ray one when he continues his drug binges even after getting arrested several times, and tells him that if he won't stop, he'll lose the one thing that matters most to him: his music.