Nov 21, 2005

Walk the Line

"If you just change the music, that was a carbon copy of 'Ray'," said Stephanie.
The New York Times says Walk the Line
adheres to a familiar "Behind the Music" formula, following its subject through childhood trauma, marriage and divorce, alternating off-stage melodrama with recreated performances that remind us why we should care about this guy in the first place.


Well, Stephanie, the Detroit Free Press agrees. The New Yorker goes on to intimate that the film glosses over Johnny's childhood and doesn't portray him as the complicated and often angry man he was.

I find no fault with these reviews, but I also think Johnny led a long life, much of it interesting enough for a whole movie.This particular film focuses on his quest for June and offers only glimpses of his musical success, his worldwide influence on country music, his spiral into drugs, his anger, or his affinity for trashing a hotel room. I think to bite off JR's whole life would be more than one movie could chew, so I'm ok that the filmmakers focus on just this one particular quest. After all, it is one of the greatest love stories of our time. We can all only hope to fall so in love with another human being as Johnny and June were with each other.

The book "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone" recounts their first meeting:

He'd grown up listening to the Carter Family 78's and tuning into their show on border radio. The way Johnny told it later, he'd first seen June in 1950, during Dyess Hish' senior-class trip to Nashville. The class went to the Opry, and Johnny sat gawking at the Carter Sisters and one sister in particular. Five years later, he began playing at the Opry himself. At the time, both John and June were newlyweds. Still, he introduced himself to June with these words: "Hello. I'm Johnny Cash, and I'm going to marry you someday."
"Really?"
"Yeah."
"Well, good," June said. "I can't wait."

It wasn't so easy as this for them, but Johnny never gave up on his love for June and June (along with her whole family) never gave up on saving the parts of Johnny that were magical. She eventually did and by all accounts they lived happily ever after.

Reese and Joaquin portrayed their roles convincingly well. The film may not go down as the greatest biopic ever made, but for me it was satisfying to see on screen this story I've read about so many times. I found one anachronistic problem; the film's title is taken from Johnny Cash's 1956 hit "I Walk the Line." The plotline indicates he wrote it for June, but he didn't actually meet her until the early 1960's.

If you don't make the mistake of believing this movie is the story of the country star and his talent and influence on his legions of fans and on music in general, you'll love this love story. I give the flic a hearty thumbs up. As for the missing parts, I would prefer to see them in documentary form like Bob Dylan's recent expose.

1 comment:

wharman said...

as for the similarity to Ray, maybe you just have to have a dead brother and be blamed for it to be a legendary musician!