Walk the Line
Release year: 2005
Director: James Mangold
Screenwriter: Gill Dennis, James Mangold, Patrick Carr (autobiography), Johnny Cash (autobiography)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patrick, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dallas Roberts, Dan John Miller, Larry Bagby
Ratings: 1 Oscar: Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon). 4 Oscar nominations: Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing. 3 Golden Globes: Best Actor Comedy/Musical (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Actress Comedy/Musical (Reese Witherspoon), Best Comedy/Musical.
The life of country music legend Johnny Cash from his early days with an alcoholic father to his adult life where he himself struggled with abuse and about the woman who saved him.
At first glimpse Phoenix (Her, 2013) doesn’t look much like legendary singer Johnny Cash, but as the talented actor he is he disappears into his part and has you convinced he is the man in black as he perfects Cash’s movements and facials expressions on stage as well as delivering a perfect performance as a man torn apart by drugs and demons from his past. He was nominated for an Oscar but didn’t win, as opposed to his female co-star Witherspoon (This Means War, 2012) who plays the part of the love of Cash’s life, June Carter, with as much strenght and love as the movie tells us June had for Johnny. As dependant as the two characters are on each other, as dependant the two leads almost seem of each other and it almost feels like Phoenix finds strength in Witherspoon, who on the other hand seem strong enough to not be broken by anything thrown at her. No matter how well crafted and written the movie is, there is no doubt that it wouldn’t have worked as well, if the two of them didn’t manage to bring so much heart and soul in to their characters. They are supported by an excellent cast, especially Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1991) as the abusive and umpleasant father and Goodwin (Something Borrowed, 2011) as Cash’s long suffering wife whose fearless performance not only lets you feel for the neglected wife but also lose sympathy for a life partner that show no support or interest in her husband, This ensures that when Cash meets understanding and support in June, you never lose sympathy over his decision. Instead of telling every detail of Cash’s life the movie sticks to events that played an important part of his struggle and ends when he finds peace. This does that the story feels completed without ever feeling tedious, it also means that it can be a tough watch, as you spend most of the movie watching the lead in pain in some way or another. Phoenix and Witherspoon had vocal training for six months with music producer T Bone Burnett and the result is a convincing musical performance that falls close enough to the original to not disturb the story. Where biopics can sometimes feel like TV-movies, Walk the Line is a superb drama with a gripping story about overcoming your past and about true love, the kind that makes you strong enough to be the best you possible can.
The scene in which Johnny Cash pulls the sink off the wall was not scripted; Joaquin Phoenix actually pulled it off the wall.
Picture copyright: SF Films