Monday, March 06, 2006

Walk the Line


Dir: James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted; Kate and Leopold)

Disappoitning biopic about one the biggest bad asseses ever to strap a guitar around his neck. Both Paul and Ron (see that "search this blog" window up at the top) make the parallels to Ray. But they are far too kind; this moive is Ray, just with fishing poles instead of bottles tied to a tree branch. In almost every element the movies are mirror images of a poor set of conventions. The genre is so constricting that these two wildly different men have the exact same movies made about them. That is inexcusable.

Ray was a bad movie with a brilliant performance that made it worth watching. But I must say that Walk the Line had no Foxx-esque morphing into the title characters. This type of acting is essentially mimickery; impressions that are matters of discipline, not inner talent. Foxx had the luxury of studying with Charles for years, the project having been long in the works. He could hang out with the man, observe the minor quirks that take a workamlike performance and make it transcendent. Foxx was inside Charles.

Reese Withserspoon had the easier job in this movie, as June Carter was a bit of a caricature to begin with in her stage performance. The growls and exaggerated twang of her singing is very strongly done, but then I can do that too (ask me to sometime). As for her off-stage persona, you know as well as I do what Carter was like. Foxx transferred his Charles performance not just on the stage, but in the movie's quitest moments as well; I found that Witherspoon was just doing a southern girl, not June Carter per se. OK, but not great.

Phoenix had a herculean task, becoming an American icon. I find him short of the task. His physical appearance alone is wanting, unable to be the hulking mountain of a man that Cash was. When your Johnny Cash is physically dominated by the guy playing Jerry Lee Lewis, you have miscast that role. The voice too is poorly performed. Phoenix has always been scratchy, breathy, and never sonorous enough to fill a room. It was that voice that made his role in Gladiator so good, becuase it communicated uncertainty and inexperience. To play Cash, you not only have to film a room, you have to fill the whole world. Phoenix acts well enough, but his goal is mimickry; physical traits beyond his control prevent him from becoming Cash.

Were the movie itself better, I would forgive these things. But, like Ray, the performances are the only thing going for Walk the Line. It fails to deliver.

I cannot recommend the film.



Blogger ronvon2 noted on 3/07/2006 12:15:00 AM that...

It sounds like a herculean task that should not have been attempted...because I can not think of a known actor that could come close to looking like Cash, other than Phoenix. Maybe Lewis should have been recast.

I think Foxx, who is a better actor overall, had more to explore. Not only is he inhabiting Charles as an legend, but also as a blind man. Given actors' penchant for playing folks with some form of physical limitation, Foxx gets to portray a character with so many layers (a blind African American musician struggling with drugs, fame, racism, physical limitations, love, get the idea).

Just a thought, and a sympathetic attempt to the defend Phoenix (but not really the film)  

Anonymous Anonymous noted on 3/07/2006 12:50:00 PM that...

I was never a Johnny Cash fan but I loved the movie. Both lead actors were great.

I thought Phoenix did an outstanding and very credible job. He captured the essence of the charater. Thats what counts. It the "feeling" that matters. The relative physical size of the actors is a minor point.


Blogger paroske noted on 3/08/2006 02:29:00 PM that...

The relative physical size of the actors (1) is not a minor point when the goal is to accurately embody the subject and (2) the rest of the movie is pretty bad (in my opinion), so the only thing left to redeem it is a good impression from Phoenix.

From what others on the blog are saying, Capote can get away with PSH not exactly mirroring Truman physically because the story and preformance are so strong. Ray was not strong, but JF completely embodies Charles, so it is a commendable film. Walk the Line does not meet that standard.