Yep, saw this last night. And I like it even more today than I did last night. Biopics aren't usually my favorite types of movies. Trying to fit someone's life into a standard plot formula doesn't usually make for great fare - more movie of the week than blockbuster. While I think Jamie Foxx did an incredible job as Ray Charles and I found the story interesting, I didn't really find it compelling. Interestingly, though Johnny Cash's story very much parallels Ray Charles' around his relationship with music, drugs, career, and women.
The funny thing about this one is that I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what happened next, even though I knew. As you've no doubt heard already, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Whitherspoon are fantastic. He picked up the voice (so did she), and he even picked up the way Cash sings out of the side of his mouth, and the stage mannerisms. It's all there. Even though I went in expecting the acting from the two of them, what I didn't expect was the chemistry. They had fantastic chemistry. I wanted to cheer when they kissed the first time, even though he was married.
It does take some getting past the fact that he was married with daughters at home while he's trying to get June Carter to be with him. Looking back, you can see that he and June were "meant for each other," but at what point does that justify how you treat someone you once loved? I don't know that it does, and the movie doesn't even try to say that, which I applaud. It just puts the story out there for us. But it is hard for me to watch a man, even an incredibly charismatic and talented one, cheat on his wife and get upset over her frustrations by explaining that he's bought her the house of her dreams, and asking what else she wants. I certainly felt her frustrations at times, and think this woman was nothing but justified in her own reactions.
But I guess that's the thing about biopics, they are warts and all. And even after seeing the warts, you really can't help but root for Johnny and June to finally get together and live their happily ever after, in spite of the woman he left behind.
PS On a more selfish note, three cheers for a movie that portrays the south and southerners with all heart and zero cliche. The Thanksgiving scene brought me to tears, not only because of the strained relationship with his father, but when Mother Maybelle Carter tells of learning music in church and reading shape notes. There are so many things about the way I grew up that my own children won't experience: sitting around the piano while my grandmother played and sung hymns, heading to a local pond to go fishing after digging up your worms in the back yard, and walking railroad tracks by the cotton mill. Kids, don't roll your eyes when your parents wax nostalgiac about how they grew up.