Sometimes, I wonder: where does all my time and money go? Why don’t I read more? And then I realize that I’ve seen 81 new movies this year (61 in the theater, and at least 20 on video), and it all makes sense.
#61: Walk the Line: The Johnny Cash/June Carter Cash love story, as produced by their son, John Carter Cash. I wasn’t terribly interested in this movie until the trailers came out, and even then, it took a little bit of word-of-mouth and cheerleading from to make it a priority movie for me. I’m not sure that I enjoyed the movie as much as I could have, because before going in, I didn’t actually know anything of Johnny Cash’s musical history.
I thought this movie was a better film than Ray in a couple of ways: it limited the scope of its story by making it mostly a picture about Johnny and June, where Ray was trying to tell an entire life’s story. This one pretty much began and ended with the Johnny and June show, though it did have to dip into Johnny’s background to get there. Walk the Line did a better, though not a perfect, job of really hitting some low points. It made Johnny Cash unlikable at times, or at least got close to it. Here’s where the family-sanctioned biopic is always going to have its limits, I know, and yet I keep holding that against films like this. June Carter came off as being something of a saint in this film, and even at his most doped-out, Johnny Cash looked like he always felt pretty bad about it. True stories have a tendency to become flat, anymore, because it would be bad form or something to stomp on the grave of the person being portrayed. So, not a bad film, but a little unsatisfying for me.
I thought the performances were really strong — Reese Witherspoon’s accent was really good, and Joaquin Phoenix had the voice down — even I could tell that, from the tiny bit of Johnny Cash singing/talking I’ve heard. They didn’t have a sparkling chemistry, really, but I think is right in suspecting that a few Oscar mentions will come from this film.
All-in-all, it makes me want to watch the Johnny Cash “Hurt” video again, and see June in the background.