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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Whether or not to Walk the Line

Published: February 10, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

The series of strange and confusing events that lead me to Walk the Line this past weekend almost seem like seeing this movie was fated. If a few things had gone differently, I would have ended up in a theater with Good Night and Good Luck or Munich, but I landed in theater number fifteen with Johnny Cash.

And what did I think of this big-screen “Behind the Music”? I am not a Johnny Cash fan, but Walk the Line was interesting enough for one viewing. I would not feel the need to watch this movie again, however, because it just doesnt offer enough for repeated viewings. If I had known Cashs life story, this film might have seemed pretty slow.

This leads me to believe that this film is not for diehard Johnny Cash fans. In fact, the less you know about Johnny Cashs life, the better this movie is. For instance, the film adds a large and fictional problem involving Cash and his relationship with his father. The movie begins with this tension that continues throughout the entire film, only to be somewhat resolved in the end. Johnny Cash says in his autobiography that he got along with his father, but the moviemakers applied traditional daddy issues to the film for no apparent reason except to make the story more conventional.

Because this film is about a beloved, famous and deceased man and has enough Hollywood flair and convention and a little humor, it is the type to receive critical acclaim and some award nominationsbut not the type to be a personal favorite. It is a pretty good flick and makes a good date movie, but altogether I just dont feel it. As a true story, it just seems like Diet Life. Everything has been simplified down to one calorie so that its just like fictional movies.

Additionally, its hard to look at someone who is a relatively big name like Joaquin Phoenix and actually believe that he is Johnny Cash. Becauselike most peopleI have heard Ring of Fire, and thus heard Cash sing, I am extra critical of Phoenixs singing. For me, he did not pull it off, but he did come close at the end of the film when he sang “Ring of Fire,” and I must give him credit for almost nailing it.

I also have to give credit to Walk the Line for not making Cash into a really nice, likeable guy. At one point in the film, someone says to him, Youre a good man, and I realized that I did not believe it. The movie actually shows him as a screw up, doing the wrong thing and unworthy of all of the good things that come to him. He cheats on his wife, sleeps with groupies, is heavily addicted to pills, and even attacks his wife in front of his children. Basically, the guy almost never says or does the right thing in his personal life and it is really amazing that he does not die on several occasions in the movie. He does not stay static in his simplicity and ability to mess up his lifehe does grow by the end of the film. However, by the end it is all just too sugary and happy: a few scenes to wrap everything up and then he rides off into the sunset never to have another problem again.

If fate was involved in me catching this flick, it was only to show me that people can screw up a lot and still be famous and get everything they want in the end. This is only going to encourage me to be more of a waste of life.

So, in the end, its not the end of the world if you miss this flick. If, however, instead of a diehard Cash fan, you are a diehard Reese Witherspoon fan, I recommend that you see this film. She does an amazing job as June Carter. Seeing how well she puts Cash in his place for most of the film definitely makes it a better movie.

Plus an Elvis look-alike floats around, if youre into that sort of thing.

However if youre not into Elvis or Reese, this is one of those movies that you can miss without missing much.