James Mangold

A dude.

Walk the Line (2005) -- When VH1 did Behind the Music, they almost invariably focused on the negative side of an artist's life: his bad personality, bad temper, drug abuse, the way he tore the band apart, how horrible he was to his wife and family, etc.  The difference between that show and this movie is that in Behind the Music, they always at least made it a point to show why the musicians were beloved (by fans and those close to them) in spite of their faults, and the show usually ended on an optimistic note, ultimately creating redemption stories.  Am I saying that Behind the Music is better than Walk the Line?  Yes, I am.  This movie shows Johnny Cash as a guy who left his wife for a married woman (June Carter), then treated her like shit, then got messed up with drugs, and was generally a dismal dullard with no personality to speak of.  Sure, the real-life Johnny was unfaithful and a drug addict, but he eventually overcame those sins and always had a dynamic personality and great songs.  Here we're supposed to forgive him because his father was "mean" to him (sort of) and because his brother died.  And the renditions of the songs in this movie are mediocre and sung with a laughable voice.  In the final scene when June agrees -- on stage, under pressure -- to marry Johnny, are we meant to think this is a good thing?  Why?  Because we like Johnny Cash in real life?  I like Johnny Cash in real life, but I didn't like this character at all.  Real life is real life and movies are movies (even the ones about real life) and you still have to earn certain things like love for character.  Who would root for the motherfucker in this movie?  It would have been better for him to sink in the mud or whatever the hell was happening in that stupid scene where he's showing off with the tractor.  And why would June (played cheerfully by Reese Whitherspoon, the only thing worth seeing the movie for--both for her performance and her singing voice) fall for him?  Did she?  Not that I can tell.  At best, there's a sort of distant pity, nothing that would inspire marriage.  This is not a love story, ladies and gentlemen.  This is a poorly-told, boring, and frustrating story which is unfortunately about one of the most energetic, charismatic, respectable, and power-filled men that's ever lived.  If nothing else, the movie forces you to pull out your Johnny Cash albums and wash down the bad taste.  Once you hear the real guy, you take a deep breath and feel at home, the taint of this film quickly leaving your brain. D

Copyright (c) Apr 2006 by Rusty Likes Movies