He Said: ‘Line’ a focused biopic of Cash | PostIndependent.com
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He Said: ‘Line’ a focused biopic of Cash

It’s said you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can tell a lot about movies by the title. “Walk the Line” is no exception.Yes, it’s kind of an easy way out for a movie reviewer, but next to comparing the movie I’m reviewing to other movies, it’s my favorite shortcut. Since I have yet to read a review of “Walk the Line” that doesn’t mention “Ray” and since I’m on vacation, I’m taking both shortcuts. The fact I’m on vacation in the town where I grew up – which my parents say is pretty close to June Carter’s real-life hometown of Maces Springs, Va. – mitigates my guilt a little.I went to the movie with my mom this week and came out realizing the difference between “Walk the Line” and “Ray” is almost as simple as the difference between their titles. People have been describing both “Ray” and “Walk the Line” as biopics, but their focus is a little different: maybe sharper on Johnny Cash and wider on Ray Charles. Even though “Ray” truncates off the last part of Charles’ life, it’s more of a biopic. And while “Walk the Line” certainly contains some of the same biographical elements as “Ray,” it’s more of a snapshot of Cash’s early relationship with June Carter, which explains why the final stanza of Cash’s life isn’t part of “Walk the Line.”The title even tips director James Mangold’s hand: Otherwise, why wasn’t Joaquin Phoenix starring in “Man in Black”? It’s because the song title is a pretty appropriate description for the focus of the movie. If the biographical elements showed Carter’s childhood instead of Cash’s, they probably could have made essentially the same movie and called it “Ring of Fire” after her song about her relationship with Cash.Phoenix embodies the singer’s iconography just as Jamie Foxx won an Oscar for doing: My mom and I walked out of “Walk the Line” wondering aloud whether Johnny Cash had a scar above his upper lip in the same place as Phoenix’s birthmark.No one else was nearly as important to “Ray” as Jamie Foxx. But playing Carter, actress Reese Witherspoon is almost as key to “Walk the Line” as Phoenix is. Far more movies get sequels and remakes than warrant them, but the “Ring of Fire” idea actually has merit, since Witherspoon subtly, and frequently, upstages Phoenix. It’s a testament to Witherspoon that Cash almost looks like the less meaty of the two characters.If anything, I wanted to see more Cash and less courtship. The enduring legacy of seeing “Ray” last summer is three Ray Charles CDs finding their way into my collection. Since Cash already marked the lone intersection between the musical tastes of my dad and me, there must be another route. Maybe that idea of a “Man in Black” sequel has some merit after all.


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