Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Walk the Line


This was pretty much what I expected it to be. A biopic, and even more a biopic about a contemporary musician, always seems to have the same story line. Comes from nowhere, early struggles, success, bigger success, crisis and downfall (usually from booze and/or drugs), triumphant return. There are exceptions, like The Doors, but if they ever do Jimi or Janis, that one will begin to seem like a cliché, too.

Like Sam Goldwyn said, “What we need are some new clichés.”

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, far from it. It was bold to have the two leads do their own singing, but we’re not talking Streisand or Pavarotti here. Country rock is not like that; plenty of people without notably talented voices have made it big, and rightly so. Johnny Cash’s voice was deep and gravely and sometimes had only a nodding acquaintance with where the notes should be, but he made up for it in passion and songwriting ability. He started at a time when genres were not quite as stultifying as they have become, and so could be a rocker or a country boy, as he chose. He could spot talent, and knew Bob Dylan was a genius before a lot of other people did, and didn’t care when he went electric. His cover of “It Ain’t Me, Babe” is one of my favorites. Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t particularly look like Johnny Cash, but he does something with his mouth when he sings that somehow makes him the spittin’ image. And what can I say about Reese Witherspoon? I’ve been madly in love with her since her first role in The Man in the Moon (strictly platonic, of course; she was 14), and she just keeps getting better and better. She has done very well in stuff like The Importance of Being Earnest and Vanity Fair. I even liked her in movies I didn’t like, such as the Legally Blonde ones. I haven’t seen all the Oscar-nominated performances yet, but no matter how good the others were, her win certainly couldn’t be a travesty, like Bravehearttaking Best Picture.

Oh, yeah, I have to add … I was squirming at the end, when Johnny proposed to June live onstage, and I was hoping it was some screenwriter’s invention. It wasn’t. None of my business, of course, but that was a pretty tasteless thing to do, John.