Sunday, March 05, 2006

'Walk the Line'

I don’t usually buy DVDs on a whim. Usually I think about it for a while or at least have some on a mental list (and yes, in this case list is only in my mind, not on my palm pilot) so that if I see it on sale I will buy it. Last Tuesday, though, I was in Best Buy picking up the new Corrs album and Pride and Prejudice (mostly because Laura and Lynnae wanted it – although I’m sure I’ll enjoy it too) when I saw Walk the Line, the film about the early career years of Johnny Cash, and, on a whim, I bought it. I made a fine choice. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon both do a remarkable job as Johnny Cash and June Carter. The academy award nominations are certainly justified. Phoenix and Witherspoon have the singing down so well that, when the film plays an actual duet from Cash and Carter over the credits, I wasn't sure if it was really them or not.

I generally like movies about musicians because I like seeing the ins and outs of the business and also the creative process. This film actually doesn’t show a whole lot of either of those, although I really enjoyed the early Sun Studios scenes and seeing Cash's relationships with Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and his band. It also shows that Cash was a Dylan fan - he sings one of his songs and has Dylna's musis playing in the background often. The film mainly focuses, though, on the relationship that Cash had with June Carter. I have mixed feelings about their relationship though. Clearly, Cash was smitten with June early on and it was she who rescued him from an addiction to pills and a self-destructive lifestyle. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for Cash’s obsession with June Carter, his marriage might not have fallen apart. I found it hard to cheer for their getting together when I saw that, according to this film at least, Cash was really responsible for the end of his marriage.

I know the end of the story; how Carter helped Cash come back to recognizing Jesus as his Lord and really helped him become much more than just a rock and country star – things that happened after the end of the film and are really only hinted at. But there is something in the way that they got together that is troubling. Cash’s first wife, Vivian, is just sort of cast off when Cash pushes her beyond the limits of what she can stand. Yes, I know that she left him but, realistically, he left her long before that. Nonetheless, this is apparently what happened in Cash’s life (the director spent a lot of time with the couple before they died) and the film does a fine job presenting it. What I'd really like to see now is a film to finish the story. I want to see how Cash made the rest of the transition to the thoughtful Godly man that he became for the last half of his life.


bethany said...

I think this film has some interesting reflections on Christianity, especially with the woman who chastises June for her divorce in the store, and the forgiveness and love demonstrated by the carter family. And it has some great music-related lines as well.

Bob K said...

Excellent point about the Carter family, Bethany. You're exactly right. And this film shows two flawed people and how they deal with adversity.

c said...

i agree with your thoughts on this film. it was well-acted and entertaining, etc. - but i came away from it really wanting to know more about what he did with his life in the time period after the film ended.