Sunday, March 19, 2006

Walk The Line

I finally got to see Walk The Line, as the DVD showed up from Netflix. Damn, I should have gone to the theater... and I knew it. Joaquin Phoenix is the man! He absolutely nailed Johnny Cash. I knew he was a great actor, but his singing was drop-dead perfect. You can easily tell the difference between him and the real man in black, but he manages to capture somehow the soul and essence of J. R. Cash in way that is electrifying. It's an incredible show, especially as I was expecting to cringe at his singing. Not to worry. If Mr. Cash were alive to see it, I'd bet Joaquin's performance would scare him to death. An interesting parallel between Johnny and Joaquin is they both lost an older brother they admired.

Reese Witherspoon may be the smartest actress of her generation. I think she's been sandbagging with the lightweight movies she's mostly been in up to now. Then, with her tour de force as June Carter in Walk The Line, how could anyone not award her the Best Actress Oscar. All of a sudden, she's the new Meryl Streep and Barbra Streisand rolled into one. She can really sing, and really act. Both she and Joaquin lived their roles to that rarefied level where you see no actors, but only the characters.

Ginnifer Goodwin as Vivian Cash, Johnny's first wife, was pretty good too, although it's hard to get much recognition for playing behind the two stars, in a somewhat unsympathetic role. One great thing about watching the DVD is that you can see a deleted scene (one that should never have been) where she overhears Johnny while he's working on “Cry, Cry, Cry”. It seems to break her heart to hear it, and she walks downstairs to where he's playing. Johnny doesn't see her for a bit, and is startled when he does. She asks him, “Do you hate me?” Oddly, she looks very beautiful then. Maybe that's why it was cut, the audience might start sympathizing with her.

There's plenty to like in this movie, but the scenes of Johnny and June on tour with Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Roy Orbison, and others were funny as hell. Waylon Payne as Jerry Lee was a riot. By the way, he was named after his godfather, Waylon Jennings, who also played with Johnny Cash. He was played in the movie by Scooter Jennings, who is Waylon's real son. He has a great line, when Johnny asked him why the phone is out: “Yeah, it's been turned off due to insufficient fundellations.”

Johnny Cash: Tell me you don't love me.
June Carter: I don't love you.
Johnny Cash: [grinning] You're a liar.


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