Review by Adam Donato
Apple has always distinguished itself from other brands by asserting itself as the gold standard. Apple TV+ is well on its way to demanding audiences attention. Ted Lasso is a perennial awards winner and CODA even earned a Best Picture win at this past year's Oscars. With this year’s awards season creeping up on audiences, Apple TV+ releases Raymond & Ray, a dramedy about step brothers who endure their abusive father’s funeral together. Written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, produced by Alfonso Cuarón, and starring Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor, this movie certainly isn’t short of reliable talent. With the newfound respect for this middling streaming service, can they make Oscar nominees a regular thing with Raymond & Ray?
All the credit in the world goes to the duo of lead performances from Hawke and McGregor. Both actors impressed with more genre film roles earlier this year with The Black Phone, Moon Knight, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, but their performances in Raymond & Ray are much more the Academy’s speed. Dual protagonists may get in each other’s way, but if there had to be a front runner of the two, McGregor is given more to work with in the story. The supporting performances are all very good as well, but all eyes are sure to be on one of these two at all times. They bring heart and humor into just about every moment in this movie.
The runtime clocks in at 106 minutes, which makes the movie fly by. The story picks up right away as we’re immediately thrust into the situation at hand. There’s a little more closure at the end than necessary as the plot peaks over thirty minutes before the end of the movie. It’s a simple plot setup, but the contrasting leads and the performances that bring them to life truly set this movie above the field. Of course, the tone is usually on the dark end as the story focuses on an impactful death of an immediate family member, but there’s a dark sense of humor that persists throughout the movie. Despite hitting the ground running, the conflict meanders during the second act, but it’s so relatable somber that it's welcoming to sit in.
Apple is a big enough brand that it has the potential to compete with the juggernauts of the streaming wars. Consistent high quality content like Raymond & Ray is the right way to go. Associate your brand with good talent and the fans will come because the output is rewarding enough to keep them coming back. Since Apple TV+ is so new to the awards game, it’s hard to predict the kind of exposure this movie will receive, but it’s likable enough to be considered.
Raymond & Ray is now streaming on Apple TV+.