"Walk the Line"
"Walk the Line", released in 2005, is the fictionalized bio-drama about Johnny Cash and June Carter. Joaquin Phoenix does an excellent job in his portrayal of Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon is transcendent as June Carter.
"Walk the Line" covers many important aspects of Johnny Cash's life, not all of them but the majority. The film starts with his childhood, days of growing up during the depression in Arkansas on a cotton farm with an abusive father and the more then mildly traumatic loss of his brother. His mother, a gospel music lover, was one of his only allies and supporters when it came to his love for music.
The movie then shifts to his days in the Air Force in the early 50's, the beginnings of his first marriage to Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin), and his first record on the Sun label. It begins to accelerate from there to being on tour with fellow and more popular artists like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and June Carter. With a growing following, Cash becomes a popular addition at the end of the 50’s rock and roll and the beginnings of 60’s rock and roll.
He abandons his wife and children for months at a time while on tour and is being further pulled away from them by his growing addiction to amphetamines and barbiturates. Another key factor in his pulling away from his family is his growing love for June Carter. This eventually leads to the quick downward spiral of drug addiction, divorce and hitting rock bottom, to pull him out of which only the likes of June Carter and her family can help.
The chemistry between Phoenix and Witherspoon in any scene -- but particularly their on-stage duets -- is electric and truthful in a way that resonates long after the credits. You can really see how hard they both worked to become their characters, musical ability and all. Phoenix and Witherspoon are not anywhere close to being as musically talented as Cash or Carter, but they definitely tried their hardest to fully encompass their characters.
Joaquin Phoenix portrays Johnny Cash in impeccable fashion, facial ticks and vocal mannerisms included, like he had the chance to meet Johnny Cash himself (which he didn’t). With an almost eerie similarity Phoenix appropriately portrays Cash as a simple man with a deeply complex side lost within the depths of his own distorted life views.
Reese Witherspoon delivers an Academy Award winning performance playing the spitfire June Carter to a T. She time and time again rejects Cash’s advances, plays her heart out and comes to his rescue over and over again.
Johnny Cash always wanted to be married, always wanted a family, yet had found it difficult to live up to that dream. June Carter also managed to become trapped in a series of doomed marriages prior to her marriage to Cash. The film ends with June Carter finally agreeing to marry Johnny Cash when he proposes to her on stage in Ontario, Canada in 1968. Their love for each other held strong until they passed away within four months of each other in 2003.
A few of the songs included in this fine film are great renditions of "Folsom Prison Blues," "It Ain't Me, Babe" and the title song "Walk the Line."
To hear samples of these songs and more see below: