Friday, November 18, 2005

Walk the Line

Walk the Line (Director: James Mangold)

WALK THE LINE won 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon

Mangold directed the indie Heavy, then went on to do the could-have-been-better Copland. Then there was Girl, Interrupted and Kate & Leopold. His last one was the so-so Identity. Based on Johnny Cash's autobiographies The Man in Black and Cash: An Autobiography, Mangold adapted the screenplay with Gill Dennis. Filmed in part around Nashville and Memphis.

Finally, this year, filmmakers are getting the biopic right. After Capote and this film, we're finally getting stories instead of Famous Person's Greatest Hits. Last year's Ray sort of fell into the episodic nature of this kind of narrative--here's how he got inspiration to write this song! Here's where he played that famous concert! Here's where he got into drugs! Walk the Line has a focus. Read on.

Yes, it has his humble beginnings. Early family life. Death of a brother. But then after a stint with the Air Force, where he starts writing songs for fun, marries young and fathers young, and finally catches a break, we see the emerging star Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) have a precipitous rise and fall with his edgy music and subsequent drug habit. But at heart, it's a love story. It's how he meets June Carter (Nashville's Reese Witherspoon, who is heartbreakingly beautiful and practically steals the movie) and how his foibles keep running him into a brick wall in trying to ultimately be with her. Through her, he's a better man. That's the theme.

Phoenix is one of the coolest actors you can get, and he sang all the songs here and learned how to play guitar for the movie, and Witherspoon followed suit. Supposedly handpicked by the real legends before their deaths in 2003, these two do no wrong. They turn in Oscar-caliber performances that are virtual locks. If I had one complaint about the movie itself, it would be the fairly long dry-out period that is portrayed taking place in his Hendersonville home. That bogs the movie down a tad, but hell--what a minor complaint.


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