Walk The Line through The Ring of Fire and Cry, Cry, Cry, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon Give Oscar Caliber Performances

Johnny Cash was the original gangster before “”gangster became”” cool. He was a rebel in black who sung songs about cocaine habits, shooting a man just to watch him die, Prison life, back when prisons where filled with white people, hurting himself just to see if he could feel and more.

The funny thing is much like today’s ganster rappers he ended up experiencing the controversial things that he sung about (except shooting a man). As his father Ray Cash (an almost unrecognizable Robert Patrick) says (paraphrasing) at one point in the film, after Johnny is arrested, now you’ll finally be able to sing your music without being a fake.The film is really what 50 Cent’s “”Get Rich Or Die Tryin”” should have been, it’s a strong by the numbers bio pic, that is full of toe tapping music, energetically sung by it’s stars Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny Cash) and Reese Witherspoon (June Carter) who both give Oscar caliber performances.We see snippets of Cash’s life and the events that made him what he was; the film opens with Cash standing before a group of rowdy prisoners in Folsom Prison where he recorded his infamous and top selling live album. A few minutes later it flashes back to his childhood with his brother. The film spends a little time showing us his relationship with his beloved brother who eventually ends up dying in a tragic sawing accident. His brother’s death shattered his relationship with his father who blamed the accident on little Johnny and screamed to the heavens that “”God took the wrong son.”” Needless to say his father’s attitude impacts little Johnny’s psyche for the rest of his life.He never measures up and can never please his father. Ultimately everything Johnny Cash ever did, or tried to do, from his first marriage, to joining the Air Force, to becoming a musician was a cry for attention a failed effort to get his father to eventually love him. After he gets home from over sees he marries his young love Vivian Cash (Ginnifer Goodwin) who is not to pleased to learn that her husband refuses to work in her father’s business and instead wants to become a gospel singer. When things get desperate financially he finally decides to take a chance and goes to the legendary Sam Philips (Dallas Roberts) and try and talk him into giving him a contract. At first he crashes and burns, because Sam doesn’t believe Johnny believes in his singing, eventually Johnny tries one of his own songs and the rest is history. [pagebreak]Philips puts Johnny on his tour with Elvis (Tyler Hilton who does one of the WORST Elvis Impressions I’ve Ever Seen!), Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Payne, like Elvis, also AWFUL) and the lovely June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). When Johnny spots June backstage, he falls instantly in love with her. The rest of the film is all about his attempts to woo Carter and various tours and stage performances. As good as “”Walk The Line”” is the entire middle portion of the film eventually feels repetitive and eventually gets bogged down into a tiresome formula of him attempting to get June backstage, then trying to woo her doing a Performance, repeat (5 or 6 or 10 times). The story’s downfall is that while we see the beginning of Johnny’s life and the major events that shaped his music, the 2nd act of the film seems to stand in place. We don’t learn anything else new about Johnny, or really what continues to drive him, other than the standard and stereotypical decent into pills and booze and womanizing. “”Walk The Line”” is one of those films that is currently suffering from over-hype, it’s a good, not great film with strong performances, but it also repetitive, and features some of the worst examples of miscasting ever put on film (next to Richard Gere being cast as an Orthodox Jewish Father in “”Bee Season””). Director James Mangold and Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael give this film a polished shine that I’m not quite sure should be there. Mangold does an excellent job of staging all of the concert footage, and maintains an energetic pacing.You don’t have to be a fan of Johnny Cash or Country music to enjoy this, but you will be to “”love”” it, as it eventually gets to be a tad grating. The film does accomplish it’s primary goal which is to get us to care about Cash and his legacy to American music, and for that, I’m glad I saw this. Final Grade B EM Review byMichelle AlexandriaOriginally Posted 11/18/05


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