Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin
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
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.