BACK IN BLACK
I miss Johnny Cash.
I'm sad that I didn't see him in concert,
especially when he came to Sacramento with his wife and played at the
Radisson hotel about 8 years ago, and can't remember what I could have
possibly been doing that could have been more important than seeing the
man grace the world with his presence. Johnny Cash is my favorite
rock star. His incredible voice could make a good song magnificent.
More so than Elvis, The Beatles, Stones, or Zeppelin, Cash is what Rock
and Roll is all about to me. Not wanting to follow any trends, just
sing fucking good songs. Johnny knows of the torture, pain, and love
we all feel in life. "Walk The Line" isn't as good as seeing him
walk the earth again, but its a great peek into the mysterious and cool
life of one of the most badass musicians to ever walk the planet.
With eerie similarities to the Ray Charles
film last year, Walk the Line is a great biopic of the legend that was
made with authorization from the people behind the story.
Though Johnny Cash and his wife June died 2 years ago, this film was a
long enough in the making that they each reportedly handpicked the actors
they wanted to play them. And how the hell could Joaquin Phoenix and
Reese Witherspoon refuse? Both of them have been spoon fed roles
that are guaranteed to give them Oscar Nominations. You just knew
that Phoenix would nail the part from the moment it was mentioned he got
it, but Reese blew me away with her portrayall as June Carter.
Forget all the silly goofy ass romantic comedies you've seen her in
before. This lady can act. And she can sing.
When I first saw the trailer for Walk The
Line, I was a bit turned off because I thought Joaquin Phoenix just got
the Cash look down and was lip syncing to the original audio. But
once you learn that he both learned to play the guitar for this film, and
that every bit of singing is his own, it's impressive as hell. Even
Reese does her own singing in this film. They are by no means some
clever soundalike act, but give credible and soulful interpretations of
their greatest performances that don't make you doubt that you've gone
back in time and are watching these two rock country gods do what they do
Joaquin, is of course, amazing as Johnny.
He plays the tortured man with a brilliance that rivals any acting
peformance in recent memory. When you look at his work in Gladiator,
U-Turn, Signs, and Walk the Line, you can see he's clearly become one of
America's greatest and most versatile actors. He plays Cash with a
burning seething quality that makes him impossible to look away from.
And when he sings, it's like he's chanelling Cash himself.
As mentioned earlier, Witherspoon is
amazing as his longtime love and eventual wife, June. She can sing
and act in ways that make you think about those Legally Blonde movies ever
existed. And as a brunette, she's beyond gorgeous. When she
performs "Juke Box Blues" when you first see her, on an unreal retro all
star tour with Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison, you can only
wonder why she doesn't sing country music for a living in real life.
So how's the movie? I'd summarize it
as an "okay" movie with phenomenal performances. I think a better
script and director may have made this an all time classic, but as it is,
it's pretty much just your typical cookie cutter rock star bio-pic with
some incredible music performances. James Mangold does a competent
job and keeps the film watchable and enticing, but it's missing that
special something that would make it a genuine four star movie.
You certainly have to watch this movie
because you love Johnny Cash. If you only have a passing interest in
the man, you might be a bit let down as the story is little more than your
standard "simple man makes it big, gets hooked on drugs, has a detox
scene, and then gets things straight" behind the music tale.
The movie is told almost in a classic
musical style with the story progressing through Cash's musical. I
think it would actually work well as a Broadway show. It's a treat
to watch, and I found myself tapping my feet and singing along during much
of the film.
If you loved Johnny Cash and his music, you
really owe it to yourself to see this film.
I can't wait for the kickass DVD they're
bound to put together for this.