'Raymond & Ray' review: Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor play half brothers in lukewarm comedy
Courtesy of Apple TV+
Two heavyweights in their own respect, the double-bill of Ethan Hakwe and Ewan McGregor is enough star power to get anyone’s attention. In “Raymond & Ray,” the duo play half-brothers who haven’t connected in decades, brought together by the recent passing of their overly strict, abusive, and cheating father. If that sounds like the trappings of another melodramatic, lukewarm road-trip comedy, then you’d be right. “Raymond & Ray” is a lousy movie that doesn't have the inclination of actually exploring how these characters' childhood trauma might have affected their livelihoods. It would rather discuss it briefly and then move on. Kind of like the performers who don’t seem particularly enthused to be here.
“Raymond & Ray” checks all the boxes for a silly redemption story. We find out Raymond (McGregor) has been through three marriages, harbors a suspended license because of a DUI, and feels attending his dad’s funeral will provide some closure for the years of torment. He convinces his half-brother Ray (Hawke), who is seven years sober following the death of his wife, to drive cross-country in backwoods Virginia to see their father get dumped in the ground even though he clearly doesn’t want to. These early scenes never display the slightest hint of brotherly love or honesty as the two share brief, narratively convenient plot-points about how much of a jerk their father was. The surface level conversations would be enough for me to ascertain he wasn’t a good man, and yet they still feel some obligation now that he’s dead.
Things get even stranger when they arrive at the funeral home and find out dad’s final wish was to have them literally dig his grave. In what world? This after meeting a parade of characters, including dad’s younger lover (Maribel Verdu), minister (Vondie Curtis-Hall), caregiver (Sophie Okonedo) and lawyer (Oscar Nunez), who, almost ritualistically, talk about how much he’ll be missed. Raymond and Ray agree to dig the hole, for reasons not entirely clear, and the movie goes into “flight or fight” mode trying to achieve some catharsis for these two characters. It lands with a whimper and a thud.
Written and directed by Rodrigio Garcia, the entire balance of “Raymond & Ray” never feels cohesive. Unfortunately, that’s because McGregor never fits the role nor reaches the emotional apex suggested in the film's closing moments. On the other side, Hawke comes painfully close to digging underneath the emotional scar tissue suffered from his late fathers thrashings. But it’s not enough to salvage an apathetic redemption arch that’s riddled with cliches and an inherent lack of authenticity.
RAYMOND & RAY premiers on Apple TV+ Friday, October 21st.