How Old Is Little Boy Playing Johnny Cash Folsom Prison Movie Review – Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon Make "Walk the Line" Better Than the Film

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Movie Review – Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon Make "Walk the Line" Better Than the Film

Walk the Line – 2 stars (average)

“Walk the Line” is the story of Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and June Carter Cash (Reese Witherspoon). Born in poverty in Arkansas, Cash rose to stardom in the world of country music, destroying many relationships along the way through drinking, drugs, and scheming. In the end, June Carter wins his heart.

Cash became who he was because the songs he wrote and sang were from his heart about his own life; they weren’t fake, and music lovers related to them in their own world.

Walk the Line was a struggle to produce as it took 4 years to secure the film rights and another 4 years to make the film. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon sang by themselves, both had 6 months of vocal training and learned to play their instruments (guitar and auto-harp) from scratch.

Both Phoenix and Witherspoon showcase their talents in this film that had a great story but not a great presentation. Based in part on Cash’s book The man in black and Cash: The Autobiography, the adaptation is also credited to Gill Dennis and James Mangold, who also directed the film. It’s rarely a good idea to have a director and writer on the same film, and Mangold showed why.

Instead of being a good inventor, Mangold seemed determined to send his portrait of Johnny Cash naked into the woods and drag Cash through the mud and muck for far too long. It was unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the film in my opinion. Mangold just didn’t tell a good story well, he told a story.

All the sins Cash committed on his way to becoming a country music legend and icon could have been addressed without trying to elevate it to an art form. Let the writers and directors who are without sin cast the first stone. It seemed like they wanted to pull Cash down to build themselves up.

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon saved this movie. Witherspoon won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Actress. Phoenix was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for Best Actor. Walk the Line won the Golden Globe for Best Picture, but not on my ballot. Walk the Line earned additional Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design, Editing and Sound Mixing. In addition to Witherspoon’s Oscar, the film had 27 other wins, as well as 26 more nominations.

Walk the Line, released in 2005, has a special place in history because Johnny Cash recorded it for Sun Records in Memphis, along with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins among others.

It was announced that Johnny Cash had chosen Joaquin Phoenix to play him in the film based on his performance in “Gladiator” and that June Carter Cash had chosen Reese Witherspoon for her role in the film. June Carter Cash died in May 2003 before the film began production and Johnny Cash died 4 months later in September 2003.

Cash was blessed with a deep, distinctive voice and was known as “The Man in Black”. He wrote more than 1,000 songs and sold more than 90 million albums in a career that spanned nearly 5 decades. A diverse group of artists have paid tribute to Cash, including Bob Dylan, Chris Isaak, Wyclef Jean, Norah Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and U2.

Johnny Cash has a string of signature songs that won’t be going away anytime soon, including “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Ring of Fire,” “Man in Black” and “A Boy Named Sue.”

Walk the Line is worth seeing just for Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. I wouldn’t watch it again, and I wasn’t a better person for having seen it, so it gets my average score which would be higher with better writing and better direction.

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

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