I just finishe the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk The Line" and here are my impressions...
When I first saw the ads for the movie I thought "Phoenix and Witherspoon? No WAY!" Well, after seeing it my thought is "Phoenix: dead on, Witherspoon: good, as she usually is, but not spot on" Here's my thinking:
On Phoenix as Cash, Phoenix had the brooding presence down pat, something he exhibited in "Gladiator" as Commodus, and also in his role in "Signs", and a lot of his mannerisms and some of his vocal inflections were very good.
It is very difficult to play a person whose memory is still fresh in peoples'
minds, and in this case he succeeds. The goal in this type of role, to my
inexpert way of thinking, is not to simply imitate the person, but rather
to give the impression that you are watching that character in real time. For
me, this one worked. Oscar winner? Maybe.
On Witherspoon as June Carter, Perhaps "Legally Blond" is indelibly
etched in my memory, or perhaps she is just too feminine and delicate to pass
muster with my memory, but I never once lost sight of who she really IS, Reese
Witherspoon, daughter of Goldie Hawn. That is not to say that she did a bad job,
on the contrary, she did a great job as the character in the movie,
she just didn't make me forget who she was. Maybe other actors (calling Joseph!)
could lend another view The real June Carter was not quite as delicate in
features and definitely didn't carry herself with the grace that Reese can't
help but show. Oscar winner? No.
On Phoenix and Witherspoon together, there was definitely a connection
going on! In this respect they convinced me that what I was seeing was real.
Both convinced me that they were, at heart, down home country, and both were
convincing as people trying to move out from the shadows of their siblings and
parents, Carter from her more talented siblings, and Cash from the memory of his
father's favorite son on whose death Cash's father blamed him. Very real. If
there were an award for "Best Couple" then I think they would win it. Excellent
On the setting, very convincing portrayal of 1950's southern U.S. The
initial scenes of Cash's family in the '40's was given a sepia tinted lighting
that recalled memories of the past, the harshness of the cotton farming in
Arkansas and the poverty of the general area. As the scenes shifted to Cash as a
young man leaving home for the service during the Korean war the lighting
changed subtly, and never once did I stop thinking that this was indeed
in the late 1950's
On the singing, I was pleasantly surprised that both actors actually
sang the songs, with a few exceptions. Phoenix was able to show the
smoldering intensity of the real Johnny and Witherspoon did a great job as the
feisty Carter, especially with the song "Jackson" which, if you can't remember,
was a vocal duel between the two. Kudos to both!
Supporting cast: What can you say bad about a movie with characters
like Jerry Lee Lewis, Waylon Jennings, Elvis, Roy Orbison, and even a mention of
Dylan? Cash and Carter's performance of Dylan's "It Ain't Me" was the first
mainline exposure of a Dylan song, and much of the background music was
authentic. The man portraying Cash's father (forgive me, I don't remember his
name) was harsh as reality, unforgiving and always sparing a compliment.
On the storyline, from the rise to success to the slow, but
unrelenting, descent into drug addiction and utter failure, we see what is
happening, and see where it is going, but can't help but to NOT look away. This
story is not so much about the music but rather is about the fatal flaws on two
people and how they lift each other up in spite of themselves.
Most uncomfortable scenes, two come to mind. The first is the scene
where Cash, in anger, chases his first wife, Eva, into the house, knocking her
to the floor while their daughters look on, crying and horrified. This was a
replay from my own growing up experience, and one I don't like to recall. I'm
sure there are many people for whom this is true. The second scene is the one
where Cash proposes to Carter, for the hundredth time, in front of an audience
as the band plays the ramp over and over and over. Right in front of hundreds of
fans the two begin an intense, low pitched argument, and although tthe viewers
(us) know that they will marry we are still left holding our collective breath
as to the outcome.
In conclusion, a very, very, good film. Better than "King Kong"
and better than "Narnia", a movie that has general appeal and can be watched by
most age groups to which its PG-13 rating suggests. I haven't see "Brokeback" or
"Capote" or "TransAmerica" or "Syriana", so I can't judge this films superiority
to those others, but I CAN say very few will be disappointed if they do watch