Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Walk on the Wild Side of the Line

I have watched the film Walk the Line several times. I love it. It is one of my favorite movies ever. It is the story of the relationship between Johnny Cash and June Carter. A big part of why I like this movie is that it is about Johnny Cash, one of my all-time favorite singer/entertainer/performers. In my mind anyway, he was larger than life.

Another thing that commends this movie is the performance quality of the lead actors. Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny and Reese Witherspoon as June give the best performances of their respective careers. Witherspoon was rewarded with a best actress Oscar for her part. Although neither of these actors looks like their subjects, and although neither of them are especially proficient in the singing category, it is not long before you forget that you are watching actors. These two become Johnny and June.

There is a lot in the content of this movie that I am not wild about. I do not like Johnny's drug abuse and seeming disrespect for the law. I do not like the relationship that grows between Johnny and June while both are married to other partners. In fact, the film seems to teach us that love is more important than commitment; that ecstasy is more important than a promise.

But there is much more that I love about this movie. I love the music. I love the story. I love the almost incidental inclusion of rock legends like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. But most of all, I love the two lessons that are taught by this film.

First of all, we learn that the power of love is enough to overcome any obstacle or addiction. Even though June is reluctant to admit it, she is in love with Johnny. Her upbringing does not allow her to pursue a relationship with a married man, but in her heart she loves him. And in her mind she is committed to him. When Johnny is at his lowest point and no one seems to care whether he lives or dies, June comes to the rescue. It is because of her deep love for him that this is even possible.

Secondly, Walk the Line is a story of redemption. There are penalties that must be paid for sins. The are consequences for our actions. There are punishments for our crimes. Even Johnny Cash could not escape these realities. As he fought his addiction to drugs he struggled with self-doubt and human weakness. He, like all who must overcome addiction, learned that it is nearly impossible for a person to overcome it alone. That is where June came in. She brought life to Johnny. Her love was a message to him that he was not alone. Her presence at his greatest time of need showed her commitment to Johnny and to the good that was in him.

There are no surprises in this movie. Even the most casual observer knows that Johnny and June were married. We all know that Johnny has a colorful history. But even if you know the story and the music this movie is well worth your time.

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