The clichéd monotony and predictability of most biopics is put to rest in Walk the Line, the telling of Johnny Cash’s early life including childhood, drug addiction and falling hopelessly for June Carter. While many movies based on true stories tend to embellish and Hollywood-ize the original story by adding unneeded violence, love and disaster, Cash’s life story doesn’t need any embellishments-it is already brimming with them. There is no fabricated tragic love story added in order to strike gold at the box office. Cash’s early life was a tragic love story when he met June Carter. For those of you who are not familiar with Johnny Cash and/or who have yet to see the movie, consider this a SPOILER ALERT! Guy meets girl. Guy cannot have girl. Guy finds a way to get girl. Guy screws up and loses girl. Guy does whatever it takes to win back girl. It is as if Cash and Carter have written this formula themselves.
Joaquin Phoenix makes an especially convincing Johnny Cash, not only because of his tall, dark handsomeness but also his almost identical voice, on stage and off. While neither Cash’s nor Carter’s voices could be duplicated, they are brought eerily close by Phoenix and co-star, Reese Witherspoon who do all of the songs on the film’s soundtrack as well as deliver exceptional acting that proves to be recognition-worthy.
Having been compared to 2004’s Ray, on many levels, Carter and Cash were under constant control of the script itself for years before they each passed away (Cash died in the middle of the movie’s production) and it was their idea to have the actors themselves perform the classic country hits.
While June’s character is not as fully developed as it could have been and takes away from the story, the hammering bass-lines of classics like “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire” as well as Phoenix’s knowing testament of holding his guitar like a gun more than make up for it.