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WALK THE LINE - 2005

SELECT ANOTHER FLICK CHICK MOVIE REVIEW FROM THE FILM CRITICS IN BLUE
J. ThorburnV. AlexanderC. PattersonJ. CorcoranPolly Peluso
Erica Vital

ERICA HECTOR VITAL

WALK THE LINE: JOAQUIN MAINTAINS HIS BALANCE

By
Erica Hector Vital
Red Rock Review
ericavital@cox.net
ericav@theflickchicks.com

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

As a child of the seventies I remember all too well staying up late Saturday nights for the Johnny Cash and Friends hour just to see the country legend in all his craggy rebellion step up to the mike and say, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”   Needless to say, Johnny and I have a history.  Something in the depth of the voice and in the somber sexuality of the shaggy dark hair and soulful eyes appealed to my seven year-old sense of the romantic and I pledged my soul to country rebels with experience on their faces and Jack Daniels in their grins.  Joaquin Phoenix who is becoming a legend in his own right with such roles as the courageous Lucius Hunt in M. Night Shyamalan's The Village (2004) and the patricidal young emperor Commodus opposite Russell Crowe in Gladiator (2001), uses his slightly off-kilter good looks and formidable passion to recreate the myth and sexy pathos of Johnny Cash in the recently released Walk the Line

The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil, Walk The Line, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, June Cater, Joaquin Pheonix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Dallas Roberts, Dan John Miller, Larry Bagby, Shelby Lynne, Tyler Hilton, Waylon Payne, Waylon Jennings, Shooter Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley

Director James Mangold begins with music, just a thread of Folsom Prison Blues pulsing over the guard tower during Cash’s 1968 performance.  The chords are percussive and the thread of Cash’s unforgettable rhythm becomes a torrent we follow into Folsom itself and onto the prison stage where Cash’s band, The Highwaymen, are sustaining the beat, guitar and bass pumping through a crowd of outlaws and bad men, perpetrators of the kinds of crimes of passion that are recurring themes in much of Cash’s music.  In a skillful display of storytelling, Mangold who directed Stallone in the sleeper hit Cop Land (1997) and Anglelina Jolie and Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted (1999), does not immediately give us Joaquin or Cash.   Instead the surging bass line speaks for the man who, while waiting backstage, is lost in thought—confronted with memories of his tragic past even as he faces the future.

In this way, screenwriter Gill Dennis begins at the middle of Cash’s career, years after the Arkansas singer-songwriter born of farming folk has ascended the ranks of Nashville to become a musical outlaw.  And the middle is the place to start, for the life of Johnny Cash was such a blend of music and myth, legend and power, compassion and aggression that fans would expect nothing less than the delivery of the standard tales and raucous rumors they have come to associate with the man and his legend. 

Cash, for all his woebegone, folk and God loving humanity, was a hell-raiser.   He was a drinker, a womanizer, a drug user, and at those times when he crossed the border into Mexico to score amphetamines, a societal dropout.  Walk the Line delivers these seedier, sadder beats of Cash’s life, but ultimately the film, based on Cash’s 1975 autobiography Man In Black, and the 1997Cash: The Autobiography, is about redemption.

 The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil, Walk The Line, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, June Cater, Joaquin Pheonix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Dallas Roberts, Dan John Miller, Larry Bagby, Shelby Lynne, Tyler Hilton, Waylon Payne, Waylon Jennings, Shooter Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley

When a feverish Joaquin as Johnny emerges from the torment of withdrawal to find Reese Witherspoon, as June Carter, hovering over him and he whispers, “You’re an angel,” we believe him.  But what makes this moment more appealing in life and in film is that June, delivered with a dedicated honesty by Reese, is passionately flawed enough to admit, “No, I’m far from it.”    

The love affair and enduring marriage with country performer June Carter are as much a part of Cash’s legend as his genius, and Reese Witherspoon in the role of the talented and forthright June Carter brings life and dimension to the role.  Having made a film franchise of the terminally upbeat Elle of Legally Blonde, Witherspoon is more often than not slated for roles of fashionable angst and naïveté.   Her lean look and wide-eyed grace are easily associated with a certain social or aesthetic hierarchy in which her characters reign.  In some ways her June Carter fits this pattern.   Carter was a Nashville darling whose family was respected on the Gospel circuit as well as in Nashville.  June built a respectable solo career but departed from the strict Bible Belt roots by a series of marriages and scandal driven divorces before Johnny.  The attraction between these two talents, Carter and Cash, comes together with Joaquin and Reese.   What seems an incongruous pairing is natural onscreen.

 The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil, Walk The Line, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, June Cater, Joaquin Pheonix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Dallas Roberts, Dan John Miller, Larry Bagby, Shelby Lynne, Tyler Hilton, Waylon Payne, Waylon Jennings, Shooter Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley

There is an exchange of energy and downright magnetism that is especially riveting in Walk the Line’s musical scenes.  Singing in their own voices as they portray John and June, Reese and Joaquin take the stage with an affable force that turns biopic into concert event. 

 The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil, Walk The Line, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, June Cater, Joaquin Pheonix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Dallas Roberts, Dan John Miller, Larry Bagby, Shelby Lynne, Tyler Hilton, Waylon Payne, Waylon Jennings, Shooter Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley

The portrayal of Cash’s first marriage to wife Vivian soured Cash’s daughters towards the film. Ginnifer Goodwin as Johnny’s wife fills the role with a delightful scorn and music fans will delight in portrayals of Jerry Lee Lewis by Waylon Paine, young Elvis (Tyler Hilton), and Waylon Jennings (Shooter Jennings).  The film is a tribute to Cash’s power, his meaning beyond pop or country as a troubadour, a road prophet that could stir the dark seeds of what was and what is in the soul of men overcome by their passions.  He was speaking to those men in Folsom.  Speaking to the desire for life and the fear of death, and the triumph between hellraising and redemption.  Cash was living the life of his music.  And Joaquin Phoenix has made me fall in love with the Man in Black all over again. 

A classic concert romance.

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

SELECT ANOTHER FLICK CHICK MOVIE REVIEW FROM THE FILM CRITICS IN BLUE
J. ThorburnV. AlexanderC. PattersonJ. CorcoranPolly Peluso
Erica Vital

 
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