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Old 6th Feb 2006, 12:21   #1
Digger
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Default Walk the Line dir. James Mangold



Saw this Saturday night, feeling slightly bleary from party on Friday, but looking forward to it. And it was great, I will go see it again.

The film follows the first part of Johnny Cash’s lengthy career, through his childhood, the loss of his brother, the difficult relationship with his father which haunts him the rest of his life, his attempts to start his music career after early work in the airforce and as a salesman, his marriage, his rocket trip to fame and then descent into drug addiction and the decline of his music until he is finally rescued by June Carter who he finally persuades to marry him, on stage in Toronto as his career picks up again. And there the film ends, leaving his later 35 year career with June untouched.

Joaquin Pheonix and Reese Witherspoon are amazing, they lift the film with their relationship fun, difficult, antagonistic, sad and gentle all at once and oh my goodness can they both sing! Phoenix really does sound a lot like Cash - something made very apparent as the end credits roll and the soundtrack switches to the real Cash and Carter.

The rest of the cast are also excellent, Cash’s father (Robert Patrick) was a suitably hard man, you can see how he might screw up a young boy eager to please. Carters mother and father good Christian folk showing how real good Christian folk behave (ie helping Cash go cold turkey and kick the drugs) without prejudice. The two kids who played the young Cash brothers were also very good.

Filming is great - good gig atmosphere screaming girls, sweaty performers under the lights, sparkle on stage and dreary off with faceless changing rooms and hotels.

High points were the live at Folsom scene and all the early tour scenes with Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison - wow, wouldn’t you have loved to be at that gig!

If you don't like Johnny Cash, then perhaps this wont float your boat, it did mine though, it really did. (I'd recommend it just to go see Phoenix and Witherspoon sing together - but again if you don't like Cash, perhaps not. He is cute though, definitely cute!)
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Old 6th Feb 2006, 12:52   #2
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Default Re: Walk the Line dir. James Mangold

Quote:
Originally Posted by Digger
He is cute though, definitely cute!
Oh yes.
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Old 6th Feb 2006, 16:26   #3
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Default Re: Walk the Line dir. James Mangold

Am I correct in believing that Phoenix does his own vocals and they aren't dubbed in later?

Being a big, big, big Cash fan (as you can probably tell from my last.fm account) I might remove myself from my cinema exile and go see this.
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Old 6th Feb 2006, 16:32   #4
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Default Re: Walk the Line dir. James Mangold

I believe he did his own vocals, yes, but that it is likely that some electronic modification did go on.
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Old 6th Feb 2006, 16:39   #5
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Default Re: Walk the Line dir. James Mangold

Saw this on Saturday too. Jody's review is spot on. I enjoyed it hugely, but I do think it had its flaws. That said, I didn't care a jot - it buttered my toast, pushed all the right buttons and rang my bell loudly enough that I gave it the four stars for enjoyment alone. To answer Jody's earlier q. on the filmlist conversations, my comment about being over-generous is down to the fact that while I love Johnny Cash's story - (it's got that Yatesian angst to it that I go nuts for), and while I thought Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal was to die for - a man who acts from the very core, no tics or mannerisms, just pure, pure realisation of what's going on beneath the surface - he didn't have the magic, elusive Cash 'wobble' to his voice. That sound that seems to come from a man on the brink - of frailty somehow. Oh, Phoenix has a very, very good singing voice all of his own, don't get me wrong - and it was so near to getting the JC vocalisation, but somehow he missed. Also, there was a fair degree of artistic licence taken with facts - which is fairly reprehensible when making a biopic of someone who only died a couple of years ago and with sufficient people still around who know the reality. For example: the film heavily implies that it was the moment with the tractor stuck in the mud and a very drunk/stoned Cash trying to blast his way out of the quagmire that was his moment of epiphany - the wake-up call to get clean and sober. But according to Cash's own 1977 autobiographical account, his turnaround came when his addiction left him so wretched that he decided to wander into Nickajack Cave, a series of caverns near Chattanooga, and to "let God take me from this earth and put me wherever He puts people like me". As one reviewer put it: 'why reject hellfire myth-making in favour of agricultural machinery?'

Another criticism is that Ring of Fire, written by Carter, was inspired by her relationship with Cash when they were very much together. In Mangold's film, he has them separated for this period and no mention is actually made of how or why Ring of Fire - one of Cash's most significant, enduring hits - came to be. Why on earth not? It's those sort of liberty-taking inconsistencies and inaccuracies that dent the veracity of the exercise a little. For my money, the reality (or what I know of it) is just as entertaining as the substitutions - so why not stick to the truth?

But those carps are still just that. The whole cast were indeed excellent and Witherspoon in particular deserves a mention. How delightful and refreshing it is to have a leading Hollywood actress who has such an engaging personality and isn't totally picture-box perfect. And her singing was spot-bloody-on. And I really can't finish without going back to Joaquin Phoenix - yes, he is a complete and utter dish with the most fabulous eyes and a luxuriant swathe of black, black hair that puts Superman's to shame, - but that doesn't detract from the fact he gave the role of Johnny Cash absolutely everything he'd got. Terrific body-language and those strange on stage posturings holding the guitar like a rifle, that Cash employed so engagingly. So yes, flawed and not quite the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth ..... but immensely enjoyable all the same.
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Old 6th Feb 2006, 16:50   #6
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Default Re: Walk the Line dir. James Mangold

Dead right to credit that Witherspoon gal. Previously she'd rather bothered me with the Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama piffle, so where she pulled this outstanding performance from is beyond me. The turnaround in my estimation of her is total and absolute. From now on she can do no wrong.

...Or at least she had better not...
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Old 6th Feb 2006, 19:15   #7
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Default Re: Walk the Line dir. James Mangold

Thanks HP, I fully admit to not knowing enough about Cash's life to pick up on the inconsistencies - which I'm actually kinda thankful for now as my enjoyment was untarnished! Probably going again with another friend on Wednesday tee hee
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Old 12th Feb 2006, 23:09   #8
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Default Re: Walk the Line dir. James Mangold

I agree with Digger that, so far as knowledge of Cash's life in comparison with the details portrayed in the film is concerned, ignorance is bliss. (Though I'm indebted to Honey for her explanation of the divergence.) As I only knew one Johnny Cash song* before I went to see it (Ring of Fire, of course - insert haemorrhoid ointment gag here), I liked it a lot better than I might have expected to. This was probably down to good solid meat-and-potatoes storyline of man-goes-up-man-falls-down-man-gets-up-again, and also the stellar performance by Whackin' Phoenix, who portrayed JR brilliantly, and exuded an onstage charisma that I can only presume Cash in real life matched or surpassed. The energy and explosive power of Phoenix's transformation into the Man in Black in performance was extraordinary, particularly in the Folsom jail gig, which as Digger pointed out is one of the highlights of the film. I even forgive the producers for omitting from the posters the necessary consumer information: Cert. 12A. Warning: Contains Mild Country Music.



* Turns out I knew Walk the Line too, but didn't know I did. Dur, hence the title then...
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Old 13th Feb 2006, 11:32   #9
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Default Re: Walk the Line dir. James Mangold

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Self
I even forgive the producers for omitting from the posters the necessary consumer information: Cert. 12A. Warning: Contains Mild Country Music.
I remember once reading a review of American Psycho, I think it was in Q Magazine. A caption under a still from the film simply stated:
'American Psycho. Warning: This film contains references to Huey Lewis And The News which some viewers may find disturbing.'
...Too right...
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Old 20th Feb 2006, 14:25   #10
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Default Re: Walk the Line dir. James Mangold

Well done to that Witherspoon gal, best actress at the Baftas last night - I agree she deserved it more than whatsername in The Constant Gardner, who, lets face it, was dead for most of the film.

(ok ok I know that's not technically true!)
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