Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Musical-idol worship isn’t just for smitten teenage girls on the verge of passing out or life criminals identifying with a guy singing about firing .45s on a 45. Performers themselves can fall prey just as easily to the rock ‘n’ roll mystique.
That idea made James Mangold’s Walk the Line a fascinating love story and biography about Johnny Cash, June Carter, their music and tumultuous courtship. By all accounts, Cash and Carter’s marriage was one of puppy-dog affection. Perhaps that’s because they got a lifetime’s worth of barking out of the way beforehand.
These hardheads must cut through romanticized views of each other to get at what’s real — that they’re people with similar self-esteem imperfections coming from different circumstances. Their getting together is both true love found and defenses worn down, which feels about right.
Their music — expertly sung by Joaquin Phoenix (as Cash) and Reese Witherspoon (in an Oscar-winning performance as Carter) — factors into this unconventional romance. Even if their bodies weren’t yet having an affair, their minds certainly were.
Phoenix’s drawl is alternately charming and predatory. And Witherspoon’s sallow face is the front for a tough-and-determined Southern accent. Her stubbornness and devotion feel derived from concern that her admiration for Johnny isn’t the right thing.
2005’s Walk the Line was about two musical giants, but more about how the songs, in part, were a long, complicated search to find the man in the Man in Black and the June in June Carter.