Cash film doesn’t walk the walk

Robert Taylor

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon star as Johnny Cash and June Carter in Walk the Line.

Credit: Ben Breier


Walk the Line

Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon

Directed by James Mangold

Released by 20th Century Fox

Stater rating (out of four): *1/2

By this weekend, you’ll doubtless see numerous commercials for Walk the Line in which film critics declare the movie is “a sure-fire Oscar contender,” that it “should sweep all the award shows this spring,” and that ” Reese Witherspoon and Jaoquin Phoenix should make room on their shelves for their first Oscars.”

That’s all well and good, but is the movie actually worth your time and money? Nope.

Walk the Line is a biopic chronicling the life of famed musician Johnny Cash, the man in black himself, taking us all the way from him picking cotton to singing on the same record label as Elvis Presley. Of course, there also is the one true love of his life, June Carter, whom he met while they were both married to other people.

These “sure-fire Academy Award contenders” have created a whole new category of cliche, and everything about Walk The Line oozes predictability and retread. Watching a movie like this is almost sickening because you can see there were so many possibilities to explore with the material, but the filmmakers chose to walk the line instead of daring to step over it.

Here’s the sure-fire formula for getting lots of Oscar buzz and respectable grosses but being forgotten in three years.

First, you take a true story and change it to your whim but claim that you are remaining true to the source material. Because most potential Academy voters won’t know the person in the biopic or will not have read the book, they will just buy the line of crap.

Then you grab hold of one or, preferably, two film stars hovering between the A and B list and sign them on immediately. Legally Blonde 2 didn’t do so well, and The Village met harsh reception, so Witherspoon and Phoenix were snapped up.

Give said stars an “ugly” makeover and give them an accent. Witherspoon (gasp!) dyed her golden locks brown and Phoenix speaks with a none-too-believable accent here, but because they dared to go against their normal image, the performance has to be genius.

Hire a director who has had a string of okay films that weren’t big box office smashes. Tell him/her to direct the film without any style or originality so the actors can be the stars.

Give the script one last rewrite to make sure none of the characters smile or act happy except right before something bad happens, and add in at least one sex scene. As long as the characters brood or have emotional issues, no one will notice that every cliche in the book ties the script together.

Shoot film on a fairly low budget.

Get a few nameless critics to start buzzing about the movie and place their quotes in the trailers and TV spots.

Release the film late in the year and the critics will all fall into line and praise the movie so they can say they knew it would be a hit with the Academy in March. From there you can order your Oscar dress/suit.

And that’s exactly what I’m seeing here. Phoenix and Witherspoon are fine in their roles, but over the course of the movie I was never convinced I was looking at the characters, just the actors putting on a good show and thinking about which scenes would be best to submit to the Academy.

I don’t remember a single shot of the movie because the directing is so lifeless.

The script jumps from one music cliche to the next, just trying to hide behind Phoenix and Witherspoon and hoping no one will notice.

And I just don’t care about these movies anymore! They aren’t edgy, they don’t resonate emotionally, they don’t take me out of the theater and envelop me in the film’s world, and they take zero chances with the material. I won’t even remember seeing this movie three years from now, let alone care about it.

Don’t believe me? When was the last time you thought about Pollock? Girl With A Pearl Earring? Quills? Monster? The Pianist? Hell, when was the last time you thought about Ray?

Contact ALL correspondent Robert Taylor at [email protected].