By Wayne Aronsen | Images property of 20th Century Fox
Walk the Line
I’m old enough to have been a Johnny Cash fan; but I never was. That low, grumbling voice just sounded too tired and a tad off key. Why is it singers sound better when profiled in films?– as was the case with Jamie Fox as Ray Charles.
Walk the Line Movie Review
Some performers are best live. So it was in Walk the Line with Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny) and Reese Witherspoon, (June), his partner in love, music and a good part of his pain.
The early scenes of their life on the road with Elvis (Tyler Hilton), Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Malloy Payne) and June Carter (Witherspoon) rang true of the rollicking good times and fame to be had with the birth of rock in their neck of the woods: Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi, all homegrown and right off the farm.
With Ray Charles it was heroine. JR took to amphetamines (must be a cultural thing). And we are obligated to view his slide into drug purgatory and share his anguish until saved by nurse June. If it wasn’t so integral to the story, we might ask to be spared the “Lost Weekend” of Cash–but it was.
Witherspoon is a delight. She is the bright pink to JR’s black. Her humor and perkiness save the film from the “Ring of Fire” burning in the tortured soul of Cash.
The third best character–not one to be liked–is the grim elder Cash played brilliantly by Robert Patrick. As John’s father, his spare meanness toward his son leaves no doubt, the source of the singer’s number one demon.
The music is fun, even if you don’t hanker for the heartbeat thumping of the guitar and the sour and growling voice of Cash. He is infectious; June thought so despite herself. Maybe the story is trite by now: singer gets discovered, famous, addicted to drugs/alcohol, and saved in the end.
Still, how can you not like a singer dressed in black playing in front of hard-time cons in Folsom Prison who are stomping and clapping so loud the old stone hell-hole shakes right to the foundation. And that album became one of the best-sellers of all time.