John C. Reilly did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Dewey Cox in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
John C. Reilly gets to play the lead here whereas he's usually regulated to the supporting roles in both comedies and dramas actually. Here he gets the main role as the musician who is literally haunted by his past which entailed accidentally chopping his older brother in half. Reilly plays the initial scenes a bit like his other comedies and actually not too far off from his Oscar nominated performance in Chicago. That being kinda as the naive country bumpkin who seems has a consistent bit of optimism in his disposition. Reilly's method does work rather well in terms of playing around the absurdest humor found in the film which always goes for some over the top gag or another visually, or just thrown into the dialogue. Reilly's approach is kinda interesting since he's neither the straight man but he does not exactly go as the obvious funny man either. Obviously his whole set up character is a tad comical to begin with but the way Reilly reacts to the gags is generally in a particularly unassuming way that is funny, and as well allows him to act as though he's really playing a musician with ambition in his heart.
Now the key to this performance is that Reilly attempts to portray the whole life of musician Dewey Cox therefore he can't be a constant because a musician must have phases. Well these can be seen in pretty much every modern musical biopic or just musical such as Ray, Walk the Line or even Dreamgirls. First out he begins as that man with a dream, which Reilly gives all the enthusiasm to with the eyes of a dreamer of things even as everyone tells him there's no reason to pursue his dream. Then we get his early period as a success which Reilly keeps with a great degree of humility and nervousness as though he is in disbelief of his position. This of course naturally leads to the problematic elements of the life such as loose women to keep him away from his wife, and plenty of drugs. Reilly is particularly enjoyable as he keeps that same stupid trusting demeanor as indulges in every drug he's told not to take, as well as has sex with everyone whose something or other he picks up for them. Reilly really is not seductive at all, but that's actually what makes it amusing.
Of course the hedonistic lifestyle leaves to unhappiness as his wife leaves him as well as his new wife leaving Dewey in considerable distress. It is rather enjoyable to see Reilly as the suffering musician overwhelmed by the pain of his life and quite obviously artist endeavor, as always personified by his ghost brother. He even goes to that phase of the shell of a man just going through the motions of nothingness until that intense rehab scene. Reilly's particularly entertaining here because he bothers to go through each of the phases, that Joaquin Phoenix and Jamie Foxx attempted to portray in a serious fashion, but here with a humorous bent to the whole thing. The rehab works though gaining back the love of his second wife leaving him no where to go but be a the musician who transcends all to a higher form of being. Well this is obviously where everything thing should wrap up, as it did in Ray and Walk the Line, but it decides not to. Where those films ended technically speaking mid-career (since obviously they'd never have another crisis), this keeps following Cox as he has a relapse as well as even has to sink into becoming a has been hack while doing a variety show.
Although oddly enough this in a weird way might be more realistic in portraying the full journey of a popular singer, but unfortunately it does feel a bit repetitive in terms of the gags used by the film. Reilly to his credit though does not just merely go back to the similar phase in terms of his performance. Reilly bothers to have a whole new form of depression for Dewey, this time more fitting of an aged man who must wither away in a new whole of nothingness. Of course this all sounds serious but that's never the intention but there is something so great about Reilly keeping Cox in this personal journey despite how silly some of scenes he's involved with can be. The best part of the journey for me has to be the end as Reilly gets his A Beautiful Mind moment where he gets to be caked in makeup and reflect on his life in an overly dramatic moment fitting for the end of an overly dramatic biopic. It's an especially funny end for Reilly because he brings so much convictions for those final seconds as you see Dewey Cox finally reaching the point of self-actualization just before his death a few seconds later.
This is a good comedic performance, in fact I would say I care for his performance more than I care for the film itself, as many a gag fall flat, but in no part due to Reilly's conviction to make them work best he can. What makes this performance a bit of step above just simply being good though are the songs, which are quite easily the high points of the film. Part of the reason for this is Reilly's performances of the songs. Reilly gives every delivery his all, again makes the ridiculous lyrics sing all the better since he treats them with all seriousness, pouring his heart into every ounce of it. What's so memorable about Reilly is that he tackles so many different styles. He covers the performance closely associated with Johnny Cash delivering such drive in his hard ballad about walking hard. He too does the romantic, in this case time excessively sexual, duet with all the sweetness needed. He even does a Bob Dylan in all his mumbling glory. Then he brings all home with the utmost passion of a long life in his final delivery of Dewey's last song in his final seconds. Although I can't say I loved the film as a whole, I did get a thorough kick out of Reilly's strangely devoted work.