Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Walk the line: early reaction

This is from the Nashville Scene blog Pith in the Wind. Contributor Jim Ridley discusses "Walk the Line" that he saw at the Toronto Film Festival.
I have seen the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, a hugely entertaining lives-of-great-men study that benefits from smart direction, crackling performances and great music (duh). It has some of the same problems as Ray: its uplifting arc of addiction and recovery is probably the least interesting thing about its subject's life, and its pop psychologizing is pretty shallow. Nevertheless, Joaquin Phoenix (a casting choice I couldn't fathom when announced) grows convincingly into the Man in Black: paradoxically, his Cash seems more believable because the actor doesn't do spot-on mimicry—his performance, like his singing, is just off enough not to sound like a Johnny Cash impression. And Reese Witherspoon is a firecracker as June Carter Cash. Most of the attention will focus on Phoenix, but that's partly because Witherspoon is the kind of player who works to make her co-stars look good. The director, James Mangold, does an amazing job of filming the musical numbers—specifically in the "Folsom Prison Blues" sequence, shot in one unbroken take that refuses to turn away from Phoenix's withering glare. Good stuff.

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