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Hello. His Name Is Johnny Cash.

9 Nov

I’m happy to say I liked Walk the Line. I mean, really liked it. Really liked it, as in ran right out to buy the CD At Folsom Prison at the Virgin Megastore when the film was over (and it was on sale — bonus!). But …

Alright, so here are my problems with Walk the Line: for starters, it’s got all the major clichés you’d expect from a musical bio-pic, including the father issues (sorry, I mean “daddy issues” — this is the deep South, after all), the drug use, and the philandering. It’s also got the framing device of starting with the big, climactic concert and then flashing back, with everything building to this performance. And it’s also got tremendous guilt brought on by the death of a brother (thus, all that black clothing). Since it’s so soon after Ray, this just feels repetitive.

And I could go on about how I think the film wastes the framing device of starting and near-ending with the Folsom Prison concert because it doesn’t ever really explain what drew Johnny to those inmates and that prison (I mean, beyond the fan mail). And the fact that the issues with Johnny’s father are never really satisfyingly resolved (and by that, I mean that even though they weren’t resolved in real life, in the film it’s just kind of oddly wrapped up).

But you know what? I really liked this movie despite all that. I’m not the world’s biggest Johnny Cash fan, but I have to say, Joaquin Phoenix, um, call it what you want. Is it channeling? Impersonating? Whatever. The guy’s got Johnny down cold, including the deep baritone speaking and singing voice. It’s hard to believe he’s not lip synching. Of course you’re gonna like Johnny Cash — the movie’s all about him. But Phoenix’s portrayal is totally endearing. I mean, who can’t relate to a guy with an unrequited crush?

And that scene at Folsom really rocks. I wish it was longer. (Um, yeah I do. I went out and bought the frickin’ CD!) Robert Patrick’s also quite good as Johnny’s father, and Reese Witherspoon’s singing voice is as cute as she is. (But don’t be picking her in your Oscar pools just yet. The rest of her performance borders on annoying.)

So there you go. Walk the Line‘s definitely worth seeing. I just have some issues with it. But I really did enjoy it, so I’ll give it a B+.

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