Friday, 31 August 2007

Stalk the Line (Updated)

(Title courtesy of AdmiralNeck.)

Who doesn't love Johnny Cash? Besides his father? And who wouldn't want to see a movie about him, as played by Commodus from Gladiator? He's terribly vexed, you know! And he has a decent voice -- okay, he can't pull off Cash's voice, which is a bit of a hindrance, since he had the most distinctive drawl this side of Vincent Price, but though the tone is higher, he has the same resonant quality. It's not an impersonation, but he gets the spirit of it.

We decided to finally watch Walk the Line because Walk Hard is coming out soon, and we wanted to get the most out of the jokes. It wasn't a painful task -- it's a pretty standard biopic, charting Cash's poverty (spills!), rise (thrills!), and fall (pills!), complete with screaming harridan wife (Ginnifer Goodwin, before Big Love), screaming ungrateful children (Thing 1 and Thing 2), and enough barbiturates to make Steve Coogan cry like a little girl. Along the way, Cash bumps into notable figures like Sam Phillips and Elvis -- a bored-looking actor named Tyler Hilton (obviously David Morrisey was the man for the job, not this chump [this will make more sense after AdmiralNeck posts his Reaping review]).

But what's most notable about the movie is Johnny's approach to seduction: an unusual flirtation that I believe is commonly known as "stalking." He meets June Carter (ably played by Reese Witherspoon, who, surprisingly, has a great voice) when he's still in his miserable marriage to the wife from every movie about a man who's so obsessed with his career that he doesn't bother to learn his alternately sad-eyed and shrill (insert where appropriate) children's names. (Every time Johnny saw his children bounding up to him with demands for new shiny objects, I half-expected him to lean over and slur, "And just who the fuck are you? Talk to my manager, asshole.") Anyway, this wife is predictably horrible, using most of her screentime to find new ways to say, "Fuck you, Johnny Cash, with your layabout ways. Now where is my gold card..." Of course, June Carter, with her Pepsodent grin and plucky stage banter, looks like an angel comparatively. She is polite to Johnny and talks to him a few times, which he takes to mean that she is his soulmate (even though she's married to a succession of losers -- spoiler alert?).

Then June makes the mistake of having sex with him, and after that, the stalking comes out in full force. A typical conversation:

Johnny: Marry me, June.
June: Leave me alone, I'm on the toilet!
Johnny: June, I gotta have you now.
June: Will you please get out of here? This is making me very uncomfortable.
Johnny: Just tell me you'll be my wife. I love you and you love me. I know it because you still talked to me after we had sex!
June: I don't love you. I'm married! Please stop licking my toothbrush and get out of the bathroom.
Johnny: You know you love me, June.
June: I really, really don't love you!
Johnny: ::snores::
June: Wake up! You're high again! This is embarrassing!
Johnny: Bzzt. Dad? I didn't kill my brother with a rotating saw, I swear!
June: Johnny...please get out.
Johnny: ::getting angry:: Fine! But not before I rip this sink out of the wall for no reason! BLLYYEARGH!
June: I'm calling the police.
Johnny: Don't worry about the sink, it's just resting. We'll talk about our engagement after you've flushed. Watch out for those giant swirly toads in the bathtub, though. I don't like the look of 'em.

Et cetera. I was really surprised that their, um, courtship was portrayed like that in the movie -- I'm no expert on Cash's life, though, so I don't know how accurate it is (for once I hope it is inaccurate). And their on-stage engagement is just as creepy! Look!

Her obvious distress and desperate attempts to change the subject are making me swoon! Apparently Cash did propose to June onstage, but could it have been that gross? How romantic -- love through belligerence! I know a lot of romcoms are based on this idea, that persistent stalking is actually really romantic, but it doesn't make it any less creepy (see also: latent-serial-killer Danny stalking Jordan on Studio 60, until he wins her over so completely that she forgets that she was ever annoyed or humiliated by his attention and thinks she always loved him).

Anyway, none of this is as important as the real reason for this post. I give you: WALK HARD!

ETA: AdmiralNeck reminded me of one of the more risible scenes in the movie that I forgot to mention: the scene in which June comes up with some lyrics. Sitting in a car, wrestling with her feeling(s?) for Johnny, she moans, "It burns!" Then we get a shot of her thinking, essentially, "Heeeeey, waaaaiittt a minute...burns like some kind of...ovoid...wait, I'm thinking of it...square of lead? Octagon of hate? Rhombus of cheese? I'll get it any minute now..." Ugh, it's awful.

Oh, and I've also updated the proposal scene to a longer clip -- one in which we see the full force of Joaquin Phoenix's scary laser eyes. He needs to play a serial killer before he becomes one.

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