Directed by: James Mangold
Premise: A biopic of musician Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and his relationship with June Carter (Reese Witherspoon).
What Works: The film has some great performances from Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Witherspoon as June Carter. Phoenix conveys the complexity of the man and his relationships and also captures the demeanor and mannerisms of this figure. Witherspoon actually has the more interesting role. June Carter is a far more empathetic character and her chaotic love life is more interesting than Cash’s drug problem. Robert Patrick plays Ray Cash, Johnny’s father, and gives an understated but very effective performance. The musical sequences are very well done and do not drag the story to a halt.
What Doesn’t: Walk the Line does not use the music in a way that drives the story and it comes off as an aside to the narrative. The film loses sight of its primary plotline, the relationship between Cash and his father, about halfway through and relies on a very clichéd celebrity-drug abuse plot. The ending is very problematic as the film concludes on an anticlimactic, bullying marriage proposal that leaves the audience with more sympathy for June Carter than for Cash.
Bottom Line: Walk the Line is an effective biopic that will interest fans of Johnny Cash. Although its story loses its focus along the way, there is enough structure here to make the story engaging and the musical performances are above average.
Episode: #81 (January 15, 2006)