Title: Walk the Line
Release Date: 2/28/06
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny Cash), Reese Witherspoon (June Carter), Ginnifer Goodwin (Vivian Cash) Robert Patrick (Ray Cash)
Director: James Mangold
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Rating for: language, thematic material and drug dependency
Runtime: 2 hours 16 minutes
Walk the Line is a romantic biopic of Johnny Cash’s (Joaquin Phoenix) life based on his book, adapted for the screen by Gill Dennis. The movie starts with the despondent twelve year old Cash and brother living in a cotton field soaked, war time era southern Arkansas town.
The movie hastily moves to Johnny’s enlistment in the Air Force, overseas service during the Korean War and impending marriage to short time girlfriend Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin). Swiftly skipping to Tennessee and now married with a child, Cash tries his hand at door to door selling while attempting to form a band suitable for radio airplay out of mechanics with nominal talent. Bing, bam, boom, Cash lands a deal and ends up on tour with talent now universally accepted as country music lore; Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins.
During this tour he meets an already married June Carter (Reese Witherspoon), who he has an immediate attraction for. Although the money is a God send for his family, the time away from home takes its toll on his relationship with his wife Vivian. The time and pressure on the road also leads Cash to inevitable drug use and jail time. This and Johnny’s ubiquitous attraction and love for June culminate into Vivian leaving with his daughters and Johnny coming into contact with the bottom of the barrel.
The movie ends up with the storied joining of June of Johnny and their huge success as artists, as well as a couple.
Johnny Cash is an important and colorful character in the storied myth of musical icons. The 136 minute run time doesn’t seem long enough to tell his story however, glossing over defining moments as one would a prologue in a less than appetizing novel.
The movie is less than apologetic to Cash’s former wife Vivian and children than one would expect of a post-mortem biopic, although the story seems sincere and honest to be sure. Joaquin Phoenix does a fair job of singing and recreating the voice of a legend whose voice was as unique as a single strand of DNA. The chemistry on camera between Reese and Joaquin was solid and believable.
Cash’s allure was that he was a regular guy and this movie does that ideology justice, by not overstating Johnny in any way. All in all, this is entertaining and informative, not straying far or taking artistic license beyond that which can be found in his biography. Mangold does a good job with clean shots and stays out of the way, allowing us to watch the story take place without over-directing.
Walk the Line is worth the Cash to have in your collection. It’s an honest depiction, not lacking in storyline. It breaks from the current bubble gum model movies and allows you to like or dislike the characters as you see fit and enjoy a movie that just so happens to be a true story.
Hit or No Hit: Coach Mike gives this a stand up double.