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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Walk The Line Review

--posted by Tony Garcia on 11/23/2005

(from Marty)
Walk the Line

Great idea with great performances poorly executed

Hollywood has been making biopic (biographical) films since the beginning of cinema. At first, the biographies were overly positive. “The Pride of the Yankees”, “The Spirit of St Louis,” even the post WWII movie “The Desert Fox” focused more on the positive aspects of Erwin Rommel, a German Field Marshal. Eventually the genre changed to try to provide a deeper understanding of the person. “Lawrence of Arabia” is the classic example; in that movie the viewer was exposed not to just what T.E. Lawrence did, but who he was.

Eventually these biopic films became much more honest, incorporating both the positive and the negative aspects of individuals. This is fine; I don’t want propaganda in biopic films. It’s fascinating to see the darker side of important figures. It makes them much more real, and yet makes their accomplishments all the more spectacular. The movie “Ray” epitomizes this balance.

“Ray” was one of the best movies of the decade. The story of Ray Charles put to the silver screen. Audiences got a healthy dose of music, an incredible performance by Jamie Foxx, and a fair picture of the life of Ray Charles, including the low points and the high points.

“Walk the Line” should be the same thing as “Ray”. It’s a biography of a musical figure who had low points in his life. But in execution, “Walk the Line” comes no where near the quality of “Ray”. Even in the genre of biographies this movie fails to live up to any standard. Even if it were decided that Walk the Line should not be compared to “Ray”, it’s still my conclusion that this film isn’t worth the price of any admission.

It's not due to bad acting. Joaquin Phoenix does a good job portraying the enigmatic singer Johnny Cash; Reese Witherspoon shows her abilities playing the part of June Carter. The movie looks good, each scene has good direction. But this movie lacks any kind of spirit. It has an almost flat reception. In fact, a major part of the story, the romance between June Carter and Johnny Cash, is absent. There is no chemistry. It’s not a love story at all. Carter and Cash appear only as close friends.

The film focuses on ten years of Cash’s life. Ten dark years where Cash was ruled by an addiction to amphetamines and other drugs. Ten years of strife with his first wife. Ten years of adultery. The movie hardly does justice to the life of Johnny Cash, it focuses more on the faults of Johnny Cash. The goal of this movie was to destroy the memory of Johnny Cash. It did not present a balanced view of the man’s life. It did not tell us of his origins. There are few epiphanies. The characters don’t grow as people. Cash is not presented as a deep character. He’s more or less portrayed as an antagonist.

The man who was Johnny Cash is not present in this film. The film does not portray his recovery from drugs. In an act of pure “Christo-phobia” the movie fails to show Johnny Cash answering an alter-call. The movie was designed to destroy the man. Cash’s humanly faults become the movie, and the movie exaggerates those faults. After watching “Ray” I had a better understanding, respect and empathy for Ray Charles. This movie leaves me no such feelings for Johnny Cash. It fails as a biography, and it fails as a film. It belongs to the “Made for TV” movie genre, not the silver screen. Save your Cash and go elsewhere.


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