Sunday, November 20, 2005

IT BURNS, BURNS, BURNS: Walk The Line has been getting a lot of praise over the last few weeks. It's certainly a solid film, but, honestly, I think it's been more than a little overpraised. My problems and issues:
  • The length. Like its recent forebear Ray, Walk The Line runs about 2 and a half hours, and feels fatty--a lengthy opening "childhood" sequence could probably be cut in half, and the cycle of "kick the pills/relapse" is repeated at least one too many times.
  • The singing. Witherspoon acquits herself quite well as a singer, and I would certainly consider buying an album from her. Phoenix fares far less well, largely because he's been placed in an impossible place, he can't "do" Cash's inimitable voice, and if he tried to, it would seem he'd be criticized for that.
  • The over-promotion. From an acting standpoint, both Witherspoon and Phoenix are fine (and Ginnifer Goodwin, in her first major dramatic role, continues to make a case as to why she deserves far more work), but not by any means revelatory. Those of us who've seen Witherspoon's prior work (Election in particular) already knew she could act, though she's made efforts to try and get us to forget that. It's nice to see Phoenix play a less simpering character, but there's no revelation that was on the level of "Dude, that's the guy from Booty Call?" as we did with Ray. I can think of at least three better lead actress performances I've seen this year (Joan Allen, Cameron Diaz, and Toni Collette) than Witherspoon's.
  • The failure to integrate songs. With the exception of "Ring of Fire" and "Folsom Prison Blues," the songs and performances (while excellent) don't really advance the plot. We move from plot to performance and back again without the two ever melding together effectively.
  • What's missing. One of the most fascinating things (IMHO) about Johnny, June, and their relationship is the role religion played in their lives. There's almost no reference to religion in the film, which could have been used to provide much tension and depth rather than another generic Behind the Music-esque biopic, which is what we've got here.

Still, worth seeing, and I won't be ticked should Phoenix and Witherspoon get Oscar nominations, depending on how some of the later films this year come out.

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