Walk The Line
Starring:
Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin
Directed By:
James Mangold
Grade
A-

With the 2003 passing of rock and roll legend, Johnny Cash, it was about time for a film based on the rocky life of the rebellious man in black. As a man with a rocky start to his life, Cash's biography is an excellent choice for a powerful tale of drug abuse and a constant affection for his future wife, June Carter.

The story opens with Johnny as a young child. His father is a harsh man who treats Johnny with little care and when his brother dies, all hopes that his father would be anything to him are gone. After a stint in the military, where Johnny picks up his first guitar and begins writing songs, he returns home and forms a small band. At an audition, he takes a second chance (after a poor effort with a gospel song) and performs one of his own songs. After cutting his first record, he and his band go on tour, where he meets the charming June Carter.

As he continues to tour, Johnny finds himself drawn closer to two things: his growing affection for June and his addiction to drugs. Of course, his relationship with June causes his own marriage to fall apart. After hitting rock bottom, he tries to start over again but it takes June and her folks seeing him through the end of his addiction. Once clean, he goes back on tour and tries over and over to convince June to marry him.

It's quite obvious that a lot of the story is focused on the dynamic relationship between Johnny and June. Fortunately, Joaquin and Reese are both excellent in their roles and they work well together. Joaquin completely captures Johnny's manner of speak and swagger, even getting his ticks and poses down pat. Reese is an energetic charmer that plays a wonderful foil.

One of the more interesting aspects of the film is the fact that the cast was not only responsible for portraying their real life characters, but providing the signing voices for each of the songs. One might think this is a recipe for disaster, but each of the performers, especially Reese and Joaquin, are dead on in their performance and even sound quite well. I can easily understand the reasoning behind this decision as the director obviously wanted the signing and speaking voices in line. And considering how many performances are broken into by conversation, it's a smart choice.

Musically, Walk the Line presents a lot of songs not only from Cash's early recordings but from some of his contemporaries. No Johnny Cash movie would be complete without Ring of Fire, Walk the Line, Cry, Cry, Cry and Folsom Prison Blues. Also present are some songs from contemporaries, like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. This soundtrack creates paints a great picture of the genre at that time.

Walk the Line is both an excellent biography and a wonderful character story. Fortunately, Johnny Cash was such an interesting character in real life that his bio does not fail to deliver.

- - Vane

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