Nov. 19, 2005

Walk the Line — Review

Full disclosure: Grace Hill Media offered bloggers a free screening pass in exchange for writing an entry about Serenity; I participated in that offer.

In case you've been living under a rock, Walk the Line is the recent biopic on the country singer Johnny Cash (no, I didn’t really think of him as a “country singer”, either, but that's what I keep reading). Like most music-based movies, there's not much of a plot here — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The movie focuses of Cash’s music and, if you like that, you’ll have a good time.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Cash and what I found most fascinating about the performance he performed all the songs himself — there was no dubbing of Cash’s voice over his. If someone had mentioned that to me a month ago, before I had seen the film, that surely would have been a red flag for me since Cash has such an identifiable voice. Still, Phoenix was spot on — several times during the movie I actually closed my eyes for a few seconds and it was like I was listening to a Johnny Cash album.

Admittedly, I have little Cash experience. Sure, I’ve heard clips on tv and in other movies, but I don’t know whether I should be embarrassed that possibly the first time I heard one of his songs uninterrupted was his cover of NiN’s “Hurt”. Dont' get me wrong — I like the track; it’s just that it came out in 2003. The video creeped me out a bit, but that’s mostly because I couldn’t figure out what was going on (the plot of the music video, if you will).

Walk the Line certainly celebrates Cash’s life but it doesn't hold back from his darker times either. Possible spoilers in the rest of this paragraph — if you happen to care about the film’s plot. Among other things, his first marriage was a bit rocky and it was mostly his fault; he lashed out at his wife in anger and cheated on her as well. Then there're the pills. He became addicted to a pill-based drug of some sort (I’m not sure the drug was named) and that certainly did more harm than good, especially in terms of how his drug-induced state put strains on his personal relationships. Basically, Johnny Cash was a jerk.

All the same, Cash has a musicality that’s hard to dislike. The film never goes too many minutes without an excuse to play more of his music (and I’m ok with that). And, if there’re two things that I've realized from this film, it's that I should probably buy some of Cash’s music and it might also be worth adding a few Phoenix flicks to my Netflix queue. Much to the extent of my Cash experience, I hadn’t seen much of Phoenix until now, either (I think Gladiator was his only movie that I had seen). Oh, and I’m open to suggestions on a starter Cash.

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