Walk the Line

Walk the Line (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. James Mangold
viewed: 11/23/05 at Loews Metreon Theatres, SF, CA

It’s movies like this that make me realize that I could never be a newspaper or otherwise widely read critic of films, reviewer of films for the mass of the world. Films like this, whose main driver are the notable performances by the actors, aren’t usually good enough films on their own to be very compelling. This is a gross generality, but one that tends to be pretty accurate in my estimation. Sadly, the films that I would cite here are mostly films that I haven’t bothered to go see, stuff that usually wins people their best-actor/actress Oscars, rather than makes a lasting impression as cinematic fun or art. You can probably go back through the last several years of Oscar winners to find a multitude of examples.

So why did I see this film if I anticipated finding it so lackluster? Well, the pickings at the cinema are slim and I felt like going to a movie for one. Secondly, it’s Johnny Cash, and I am more willing to bear with a story in whose subject matter I find a little more interesting. It’s Johnny Cash, you see.

This time of year, these types of films come out in a glut. It’s this whole Oscar-related hoopla and nonsense. It’s all a significant form of Hollywood marketing, tapping into viewers’ sense of what is “good quality” acting, directing, and film-making. People like being told what is “good”, and it probably appeals to one’s sense of appreciation. I mean, no one in Cinema Studies would put an ounce of credit to the awards or the types of films that are made to try and appeal to this marketing base (though it might be an interesting study). I had a friend who noted while discussing the rare occasion that the Oscars truly annointed some genuinely deserving film that “Even a blind chicken gets a peck of corn every once in a while.

But there is this type of film that is very color-by-numbers and it appeals heavily to the most mainstream of Hollywood actors because it offers a “juicy role” which can very well be translated into a good shot at an Oscar nomination. Again, it’s all about marketing oneself, as well. Like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Why do you think that Tom Cruise makes weird actorly films every once in a blue moon between blockbuster after blockbuster of popular junk? He wants that accreditation just as much as Jamie Foxx or Joaquin Phoenix.

I mean, I am hardly one to really criticize the Hollywood machine. I actually enjoy some of its output. I am not an art-cinema purist, shunning all Hollywood offerings and only watching edgy or cult cinema. But at the same time, I have my preferences and tastes. And as much as I am hardly aligned with the outside, I am also not so aligned with the mainstream. And this is why I can’t imagine that I would be successful writing my opinions for an audience looking for a recommendation. That is why I write here, in obscurity, for only people who might care what I personally think, can bother reading, which is about no one.

So, for my no one readers, I would say that Walk the Line was entertaining enough. I like all the Johnny Cash music throughout, though as resung by Joaquin Phoenix, it isn’t quite the same. He can hit those barritone notes from time to time but lacks the gravitas that is no doubt utterly unique to the original. I mean, if he was so easy to imitate, he probably wouldn’t be so notable. Reese Witherspoon comes out a little better. I never expect much from her, I guess.

The film really feels very color-by-numbers, walking through plot point by plot point, some scenes feel just predictable. It’s like I have seen this film before, and I am not overly familiar with the narrative, the actual narrative. It just feels like I am.

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