Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Walk the Line

How uncanny. Today is the day that Walk the Line won big at the Golden Globes, winning Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy, as well as snagging the Best Actor and Actress - Musical/Comedy for both Joaquin Phoenix and Resse Whiterspoon. Today is also the day that I attended my first GV Surprise Screening, and Walk the Line was shown.

You've got Elvis, and you've got Johnny Cash. Walk the Line chronicles the life of country music legend John R. Cash, who performed alongside other music legends like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. It also tells of the struggles of one man's determination to make music his life, the reliance and subsequent battle against drugs, and looks into his various relationships. Sound familiar?

Of course it does. Walk the Line is in 2005 (locally 2006) what Ray was in 2004 (locally 2005). I know it's probably unfair at making the comparison, given that both musicians' music are so different. But the way the narrative is structured for Walk the Line, resembled that of Ray's quite a bit, that you might think you know what would go next when you substitute Jamie Foxx with Joaquin Phoenix. Both had to pick up music, both won nods for their accurate portrayals, and both had to sing in their actual voice. Drawing parallels, we see how both draw inspiration from their life encounters and encompass them into musical lyrics, how stardom grew in their heads, how succumbing to drugs screwed everthing up, and how they harness creativity in making comebacks.

While Ray was a more personal look into Ray Charles' extraordinary career, Walk the Line seemed to have tried to cover more ground, but somewhat loses its focus occassionally. Too many subplots just got tied up at the end without much detailed exploration, like the strained relation between Johnny and his father (played so stoically by Robert Patrick), whom the former is blamed for the death of his beloved brother, or the struggles June Carter (Resse Whiterspoon) has to face being a divorcee in days were marriage is sacred. Equally glossed over too is the matrimony development and deterioration between John and his wife Vivian - we know he loves her and managed to provide her material needs, but all she longed for is his presence. Sigh, sometimes you can't have the cake and eat it too. He works hard to build up his career (therefore spending a lot of time on the road), and can't seem to juggle and find the work-life balance.

Where does Resse come into all this you say? She plays his best friend and fellow performer on the road, June Carter. It's like the third (married) party coming into the life of a lonely married man giving in to temptation. She tried her darndest best to reject Johnny, but ultimately caved in to his persistence.

But both of them, when paired up on screen singing their songs, have the exact same power as Ray's in having you tap/sing/groove along to the tunes. Their chemistry is a delight to watch. If you're not too acquainted with Cash's music, this is as good an opportunity to do so. Until the drugs rear their ugly head and the tunes just stopped while he undergoes some soul-searching rehabilitation. A pity that his comeback at recording live at Folsom Prison, was too short, otherwise it would have been a really good way to cap it all off.

It's a good film nonetheless, though I felt that those who have watched Ray might have sensed a deja-vu.

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