It's easy to understand why biographical movies were made about Ray Charles, Alfred Kinsey, and Howard Hughes, and I was looking forward to all of them. But despite fascinating central figures the movies don't hold together because like almost all biopics they're an oil-and-water blend of the genres of romance and naturalism. Nowadays audiences expect the famous subject's motives and experiences to be addressed with naturalistic frankness but apparently still want the movie to be shaped as heroic romance in which the "knight's" quest is to become the artist, scientist, mogul we want to see a movie about. (Back in the '30s before unflinching naturalism was possible the romance approach to biography in American movies like The Story of Louis Pasteur made more sense.) In Ray, for example, we are not put off to learn that Ray Charles was a womanizing junkie. The problem is how to work that in with his heroic quest to become the (alternately moody and roof-raising) synthesizer of root musical styles familiar to us.
To deal with this issue Beyond the Sea features imaginary dialogues in which the young Bobby Darin chides the adult he's grown into for gussying up "their" childhood in the movie we're watching. But Beyond the Sea is such a pedestrian amalgam of Brecht and "This Is Your Life" that these attempts to address the contradiction between naturalism and romance just make you wince. (Click here for my review.)
Most biopics, of course, aren't even this self-aware and romance simply wins out despite the facts. According to this article by David Ritz in Slate, Ray misleadingly implies that when Charles kicked his heroin habit in 1965 he permanently recovered from his addiction. In reality, he drank gin daily and smoked pot nightly thereafter until diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease and hepatitis C. Unheroic facts like that don't fit the biopic romance and so must go. (Alan Rudolph's Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), starring Jennifer Jason Leigh as the Algonquin wit and underachieving alcoholic writer Dorothy Parker, is the only American biopic I can think of that gives its subject's debilitating problems their due. The movie has the same bracing canniness and candidness about Parker's circle as Ann Douglas's work of literary history Terrible Honesty.)
Heroic romance is loosely structured as a series of adventures leading to the hero's climactic victory over the forces of evil. But biopics are generally about the subject's working life and the person we want to see a movie about is the person who came up with distinctive solutions (in a notable personal style) to specific problems. (With entertainers the personal style may in reality have been the solution, but the movies rarely show the development of that. Instead they focus on the entertainers' uphill struggle for headline opportunities to show their stuff, which is recognizably theirs from the start.) Unfortunately, nobody's working life is very dramatic (as opposed to pictorial): the process by which anybody solves problems does not generally lend itself to minute depiction or extended discussion of a kind that general audiences will find interesting.