Monday, January 30, 2006


Why is today's audiences so fascinated with self-destruction?

Ray last year (2004); this past year (2005): Walk the Line and Brokeback Mountain?

Tragedy I understand. A wonderful definition of which is "...fighting the inexorable." But Walk the Line (and Brokeback Mountain) are not tragic; they are merely pathetic. The main characters don't indulge in tragic struggles. They capitulate. They are 'bathetic' ('bathos')...wallowing in self-pity. There is very little fighting to attain a beneficial destiny except beating on your partner and, in Johnny Cash's case (the bio-figure in "Walk the Line"), struggling to get the beer and pill bottles open.

I know, young audiences believe society is mean and judgmental. And that harshness is best represented by inflexible, harsh and unyielding father-figures. Johnny Cash's father purportedly never forgave him for living after the death of his better-behaved brother. But using a negative past (problems with parents) as justification for an irresponsibility and non-accountabe adult present is too easy; it is the stuff of juvenile self-indulgance and self-pity...and creates, as in this film, as in Brokeback Mountain, unsympathetic, unheroic central characters.

The acting in the film is fine: Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix are terrific (expecially in the singing duos)...but the picture is: just...OK...juvenile-istically (if I may coin a word) formulaic. Bio-pics must be held to the same standards of character and plot and storytelling as other dramas. And this one fails in delivering dramatic sophistication and inspiration. All bio-pic creators take dramatic license...why not demand they take expert license!!! Walk the Line, unfortunately, walks an average line amidst plot and character. A 'B' film. All right....B+. I'm having a generous day.


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