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Movies: Walk the Line
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If I went to Rock and Roll heaven, I probably wouldn’t be on the guest list – but you can bet that pretty much every single character in Walk the Line would and that was just one of the many great things about the film.
Unlike some other recent film biographies, the biopic about the late Johnny Cash successfully takes a musical snapshot of the period, by including appearances from other famous musicians.  There are excellent portrayals of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, June Carter, Johnny Cash, and the Tennessee Three.  It was surprisingly interesting, as a lover of music, to see all the legends come to life on the big screen and interact with one another.
The film is based a biography and autobiography about Cash, beginning in his years working for his father on an Arkansas cotton farm.  When his do-gooder brother Jack is killed in a wood-cutting accident, Johnny, or “J.R.” is blamed for it by his father.  He then carries the guilt with him through his up rise, and it, along with the pressure of being a performer, eventually lead to his dangerous drug use.
In an effort to satisfy his first wife Vivian, played by an emotional and borderline bratty Ginnifer Goodwin, Cash joins the army, and then takes a job as a salesman, pushing his love for music since childhood to the back of his mind.  He eventually starts a band, they record and album, and are an instant success.
Although there are many promising aspects of this film, I think the direction is the most notable.  The director of Walk the Line James Mangold, takes an fresh-faced and interesting approach to the timeline of Cash’s ascending music career. 
In the rush of recent biops, such as Capote and Ray, a specific directional style has been used repeatedly to illustrate the shift from starving to stardom. 
In both these films, as well as many other biographies from the past, the audience is primed and softened by being shown scenes from the upstart of the artist struggling career.  Then, we are immediately slapped with a 30-second array of clips, showing the artist doing something “businessey,” like signing papers or grabbing a wad of dough from their agent to illustrate their quick rise to the top.  The routine is rounded out with a conclusive scene where the artist is in the heights of their stardom.
While this directional style is typically satisfactory for creating a logical plot line, I think it rushes the most grueling, intense and fascinating part of an artist’s development.  In Walk the Line, Mangold shifts the focus to more of Cash’s growth as a musician, and puts the 30-second array of clips later in the film, during Cash’s downfall.
This directional change allows the audience to watch Cash interact with his peers as he climbs as a musician, which reveals more about his character and depth as an individual, as well as an artist.
Besides the fascinating directional focus, this film had some amazing portrayals of musical legends.  Joaquin Phoenix plays frighteningly believable Cash, and the usually petty-pretty Reese Witherspoon creates a strong, independent female opposite. 
The portrayals of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis by Tyler Hilton and Waylon Payne, respectively are not any less impressive.  (Payne almost makes up for that horrible Lewis bio with Dennis Quaid and Winona Rider back in the ‘80’s… almost.)
Walk the Line, meet Oscar.  Oscar, meet Walk the Line.
 
 
 
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