Casting Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke as estranged brothers seems like a no brainer. Both have enjoyed decades in the spotlight, weathered their heartthrob years, and time and again surprised audiences with their performances. If “aging like a fine wine” had a picture in the dictionary, it might very well be of these two actors.
For these reasons and more, it pains me to inform you, dear reader, that Raymond & Ray is a waste of both McGregor and Hawke’s fine talents.
Premiering at TIFF in September, Raymond & Ray follows estranged half-brothers Raymond (McGregor) and Ray (Hawke). Having lost touch over the years, one works a boring office job, the other squandered his talents as a jazz musician, and both are, for lack of a better word, losers. When their abusive tyrant of a father – who named them both Raymond out of spite – dies, the brothers receive an invite to his funeral. While both are happy to see their old man in the ground, the are informed there is money in the will for each as long as they both show up to dig his grave using specially-provided shovels. Is this a father’s last ditch effort for redemption that comes by uniting his sons, or merely one last abusive act from beyond the grave?
Written and directed by Rodrigo García (himself son of Nobel Prize-winning Love in the Time of Cholera author Gabriel García Márquez), Raymond & Ray can’t decide if it’s going to be a drama or a dark comedy. Ostensibly, it becomes neither. Plodding its way through faux sentimentality and trite observations of fathers and sons, it squanders the potential for either actor to offer anything revelatory in terms of conveying the sons’ forgiveness, regret, and fear of failure. It feels as though García holds too much back from his script and never allows the story to be as quirky or profound as it could be.
Neither McGregor nor Hawke can save Raymond & Ray. There is no emotional payoff for the actors or the viewer by the time the film limps its way to the inevitable, boring conclusion.