Walk the Line Movie Review

You've got to give the filmmakers of Walk the Line a lot of credit, as they're about to take a lot of guff after this film debuts. I mean, how do you create a feature film that captures the story of a man as big and full and complex as Johnny Cash? That's the question that every Cash fan and country music enthusiast has been asking ever since this project kicked off in the late '90s.

The truth is that no film, book, or TV mini-series can really present the entirety of the giant that is Johnny Cash. So instead, what the filmmakers have created here is a tribute to what Cash seemed to hold so dear to himself about his own life: his triumph over his demons and the love of the "greatest woman" he ever knew, who gave him the strength to overcome.

It may sound sentimental (and even the makings of a country song), and it certainly is. But it was what Johnny Cash was most emphatic about at the end of his life - his story of redemption and love. And this simple, often sweet, and fascinating film with some fantastic performances definitely does the legend's tale justice.

The story begins where most Cash fans have probably only heard about in his songs - in the run-down cabin in Arkansas occupied by the Cash family, cowering under the anger of father Ray (Robert Patrick). We see a young John enamored with songs he hears on the radio and constantly singing tunes from his mother's hymnal. We also see a couple of formidable events from his childhood: the death of his brother Jack and his father's rejection of Johnny as a son.

The film follows the young rebel Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) through his stint in the Air Force, through his struggle to be signed to a record label in Memphis (competing with the likes of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis), his rise to fame on the rock-and-roll circuit, and the partying that leads to a downward spiral into addiction. But the backbone of this story lies in his struggle with those childhood memories, and the thread of June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) in his life - from a tinny voice on the old family radio to a flirtation on stage during his days of touring.

The brilliant performances by Phoenix and Witherspoon really keep this film from falling into formula. A pick who was approved by Cash himself (supposedly he was a big fan of Gladiator), Phoenix intensely channels the country star's singing voice, mannerisms, guitar grip - everything. And Witherspoon's Carter just lights up the screen with all the warmth, humor, and strength this amazing woman was famous for in life. While the impersonations are hardly perfect, the chemistry is, and the duo impressively owns their roles without fear. They give this story a real soul.

Perhaps the film's weakest aspect is what's missing - all that shaped Cash beyond those demons and the love of his life. We get glimpses, such as an early scene that shows a young Cash writing out "Folsom Prison Blues" in a barracks shower after watching a newsreel about the infamous lockup or throwaway lines from June that turn into big hits like "Walk the Line." But sadly, that's the limitation of this medium - not everything that makes Johnny Cash great can fit into 136 minutes and hold your attention.

Undoubtedly, Walk the Line will be compared to last year's Ray, which depicts a similar Behind the Music-style parable of a man of humble beginnings fighting through bad relationships and a strong drug habit to eventually become music royalty. But what Walk has that most biopics don't is an inspiring true love story so well portrayed, buoying this movie out of mediocrity.

Let's just hope that another difference between the two films is that Phoenix avoid whoring himself out as a professional impersonator the way the Jamie Foxx did following Ray. And if he does, I could almost give this movie another half a star.

Talk about a burnin' ring of fire...


Comments

pinky_leigh_06's picture

pinky_leigh_06

Walk the Line was the best movie yet of Reese Witherspoon!!! It's my favorite movie in the world!!! I have the CD and I'm getting the 2-disc collectors edition of it!!!! The CD is great Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are great singers and they both have natural talent!!! I love to listen to them and now that Witherspoon has found her singing talent it says she loves to use it and she want to do a Legally Blonde 3 as a musical!!!! If she does I can't wait!!!!

8 years 2 months ago
Report
View Comments

Tampon Award's picture

Tampon Award

IT is conceivable that the best actor and actress academy award could be given in one movie...WALK THE LINE. Phoenix resembles the great Johnny Cash down to the lip and Witherspoon exhibits the personality of June Carter Cash perfectly. It is a great story about a complex characterS...rags to riches, from hero to failure back to hero...It's a great American story. People esp Americans love heroes with an achillies heel that overcomes that weakness and comes back to WALK THE LINE to glory.

8 years 5 months ago
Report
View Comments

Kayla T349's picture

Kayla T349

I love Reese Witherspoon and Walk the Line!!! She was AMAZING in this movie among with all the other movies that she as played in. I think it's so amazing how much talent a person like Reese has. She's awesome and I think she deserves to know it. Joaquin Phoenix was also great! Playing Johnny Cash was a major role and both Reese and Joaquin did a wonderful job.

7 years 6 months ago
Report
View Comments

Sweetie's picture

Sweetie

I have seen Walk The Line many times I purchased the DVD, also the music CD. Joaquin did an excellent job. I was born in the South but never liked country music until I heard Joaquin sing and play the songs.(He was not country, he was great). Ipurchased my husband and my friends the music, they loved it too. It is hard to find the music scorenow. He should have gotten a GOLDEN GLOBE instead of Witherspoon,he made the movie a great movie, She was 2nd rate in my opinion. It was the best movie I have seen. He is a great actor and very, very handsome also. I wish he would do another movie but it is hard for a real actor to want parts in the garbage I seen like Brokeback Mtn. and others. I wouldn't waste my time looking at them.It will be hard for anyone to top his performance in any movie after Walk The Line. Joaquin is one more classy guy. I have seen all the movies I can find that he has made. He is great..

7 years 4 months ago
Report
View Comments

Walk the Line Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG-13, 2005

Advertisement

Editors Recommendations

Zach Braff Reignites The Shins Connection for 'Wish I Was Here'

By the time you finish reading this article you will be enlightened. You...

Zach Braff Reignites The Shins Connection for 'Wish I Was Here'

Bruce Springsteen Stars & Makes His Directional Debut In 'Hunter Of Invisible Game'

Bruce Springsteen has made his directional debut with a 10:15 minute short...

Bruce Springsteen Stars & Makes His Directional Debut In 'Hunter Of Invisible Game'

Will He Or Won't He? Garth Brooks Vows To Reach Out To Irish Prime Minister About Cancelled Gigs

It turns out when Garth Brooks said he would perform “all or none” of...

Will He Or Won't He? Garth Brooks Vows To Reach Out To Irish Prime Minister About Cancelled Gigs

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 ups the ante

Back in early 2010 when the first How to Train Your Dragon was released, cinemas were...

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 ups the ante

George Clooney Rejects Daily Mail Apology Over Claims Regarding Fiancee's Mother

George Clooney has been left reeling in fury in a spat with The Daily...

George Clooney Rejects Daily Mail Apology Over Claims Regarding Fiancee's Mother
Advertisement

Flashback Friday: Major Labels In Talks For Shares In SoundCloud In Exchange For Copyright Waivers

Berlin-based streaming service SoundCloud is about to reach a deal...

Flashback Friday: Major Labels In Talks For Shares In SoundCloud In Exchange For Copyright Waivers

Paul McCartney: Just One in a Long List of Celebs Who Love a Good Proposal

Paul McCartney made two fans’ dreams come true at a recent concert...

Paul McCartney: Just One in a Long List of Celebs Who Love a Good Proposal


More recommendations

Advertisement