Walk The Line

 
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by:Gill Dennis, James Mangold
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patrick, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dallas Roberts
Released: February 2, 2006
Grade: B+

Based on his own autobiography, Walk The Line brings to the screen the true life story of musician Johnny Cash.  His career began in 1955 when as a 23-year-old, he recorded his first songs for Sun Records.  His first big hit was “I Walk The Line” and other songs you may remember include “A Boy Named Sue”, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring Of Fire”.

After a brief introduction, Walk The Line chronicles Cash’s life from his early success through to a famous concert at the London Gardens in 1968.  If his accomplishments were achieved with ease, then this movie probably wouldn’t have been made.  We love to see stories of people triumphing over adversity and Johnny Cash did just that.  He battled alcoholism, struggled to overcome a drug addiction and had a difficult marriage with his first wife, Vivian.  These problems are the focus of James Mangold’s film.

Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator) plays Johnny Cash and those in the know have been buzzing about his performance for some months.  Reese Witherspoon (Just Like Heaven, Election) plays June Carter, a fellow artist who Cash had an on-again, off-again relationship with for many years.  Their performances are incredible and both will earn Academy Award nominations.  I particularly loved Reese’s Southern accent and I think she’s a shoe-in to claim the Oscar.  You’ll be happy to know that both actors sung all the film’s songs themselves.  They sound great too.  Both had six months training from music producer T-Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?).

As well made as the film is, I was disappointed by the film’s lack of adventurousness.  Twelve months ago we were treated to Ray, the life story of Ray Charles with Jamie Foxx in the leading role.  Charles too had marital problems and battled his own drug addiction.  Walk The Line feels very similar and at 136 minutes, my patience grew thin.  I was also discouraged by some of the tacky dialogue and I believe the story has been over-Hollywood-ised.

Extremely popular when released in the United States last November, Walk The Line should be equally successful here in Australia.  Johnny Cash has a huge fan-base and his death in 2003 did nothing to diminish that.  His story will be of interest to many.