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Walk the Line (Widescreen Edition) (2005)

Drama and Music Video & Concerts movie directed by James Mangold

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Much Ado Over Not Very Much

  • Mar 2, 2006
  • by
Rating:
+1
Rarely has a biopic film made such a racket at the box office. After viewing the DVD version of WALK THE LINE the reasons for that success must be attached to some sort of homage to Johnny Cash, an American icon of sorts. Yes, his life and career are notable - the emergence of a legendary Country Western singer out of the elements of a warped childhood peaked by the accidental death of his older brother whom the father clearly preferred, and the torture of self doubt that haunted a man through an unsuccessful marriage and a thwarted love for fellow Country Western singer June Carter, his descent into alcohol and drugs, and his final victory over his demons - but isn't this the same story we see almost annually about famous stars whose backgrounds seem templates from this same mold?

Joaquin Phoenix is a fine actor and has the courage to take on a variety of roles, succeeding in them all. And yes, he was able to sound like Johnny Cash (given the fact that even Cash's fans will admit it was not a voice of quality but of message). Much the same could be said for Reese Witherspoon's tackling successfully the equally mediocre quality voice of June Carter - again it was her sassy style that made her a star, not her voice. And perhaps that is the reason the writers and director elected to spend most of the screen time on the singing and concerts of Cash and Carter - leaving very little of the story of Cash's life except to outline form between songs.

But if you condensed the actual acting time on the screen it falls into the overly familiar family clashes, drunken bouts, weaning off drugs, spats and eventual public displays of feelings that seem to be the formula for this genre of biopic. Though Phoenix and to an extent Witherspoon do well with the material they are given, does the result merit Oscar attention? That is up to the voters. It seems to this viewer that there have been many finer performances by less publicized actors in the smaller films more worthy. But then what are the Oscars for if not for PR for the movies. Just not that impressed. Grady Harp, March 06

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More Walk the Line (2005) reviews
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Very strong acting performances by the leads. I wish there was a second part of the film that lead up to the passing of both of June and Johnny.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Phenomenal film with phenomenal acting. This is a must-see. Awesome music, heart wrenching drama centered on the human condition, and totally characters you'll fall in love with. As a general rule, I find that true stories make for terrible films... writers seem to get lazy and rely too much on the elements of the true story without adapting it to make for a compelling film (i.e. The Blind Side). Not at all the case here though. Prepare to cry ; )
review by . May 30, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Stars Phoenix and Witherspoon are the movie. Their performances are top-drawer as, surprisingly, is their singing. Phoenix worked hard to master the tics and idiosyncracies of Johnny Cash. In fact, having seen Cash in concert on several occasions, I occasionally felt that some of the signature gestures, such as the pout and guitar slinging were a bit overdone.     The storyline wasn't all that engrossing. Too much emphasis for me on a few selected episodes from Cash's life and …
review by . February 03, 2007
We missed this movie in the theater, and it finally popped up to the top in our netflix queue, a bit like cream rising to the top of the milk churn. This is an extremely well done biopic, that limits itself to the early career of Johnny Cash's life. The script is almost a little too clever, or perhaps the source material--Cash's own autobiographies--made things a little too clear, in that sometimes the connections between his actions and his childhood are so strong that it's like the screenwriter …
review by . September 26, 2006
"Walk The Line" is supposed to be about the ups and downs of one John R. Cash, but in actuality, it's three stories in one. The first story is that of Johnny Cash, who grew up in Arkansas a poor farmer's son. His father was hard on him and even cruel when Johnny's older brother passes in an accident. As Johnny gets older, he pursues a career in music. His first big break comes at the hands of none other than Sam Phillips. You know him for his many acts which include the King, the Killer, and the …
review by . May 22, 2006
This past weekend I was able to watch this film and Joaquin Phoenix wears Johnny Cash like a suit. He isn't doing a Rich Little impersonation, you don't rub your eyes in disbelief, but he channels a man so distinct in appearance and voice to a level that is beyond admirable. One of the traits that made Johnny Cash a legend was that nobody sounded or looked like him. Short of a computer generated Cash walking around in his own bio-pic like one of those John Wayne beer commercials this is the definitive …
review by . May 21, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
"Walk the Line" isn't just an admirable improvisation; it is a great movie. Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) live out the classic love story. He is in love with her, but she is usually unavailable or uninterested. There are other fascinating storylines available, too. The movie illuminates his difficult childhood with his brother's tragedy and his father's abuse. We also feel the anguish of an artist before he becomes famous. He must start with an unfulfilling marriage …
review by . December 02, 2005
Pros: acting, costumes, music     Cons: formulaic, a little cheesy     The Bottom Line: The bottom line shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.     When creating a biopic of someone who lived a long, tumultuous life, filmmakers often have difficulty choosing where to focus their attention. Trying to find a balance between illustrating the protagonist’s formative years, struggles to gain recognition, destructive behaviors, and adult …
review by . November 17, 2005
Pros: Phoenix, Witherspoon, and a great story.     Cons: None     The Bottom Line: A true classic and easy Oscar favorite.     Condensing something as vast and complex as the life of a person into a film is often a daunting task. With so many events that comprise the span of an individual, knowing what to cover and what to omit is a daunting task for any writer. For an icon like Johnny Cash, this task becomes monumental as not only does …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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A solid and entertaining biopic,Walk the Lineworks less as a movie than an actors' showcase for its stars. Joaquin Phoenix's total immersion into the skin of singer Johnny Cash is startling--watching it, you can't believe this is the same guy who whined about being "vexed" inGladiator. As he evolves from a farm boy to gospel croonin' plunker to the Man in Black, Phoenix disappears into Cash's deep baritone, his way of slinging the guitar onto his back, and his hunched-up style of strumming. But it's more than just picking up mannerisms: Phoenix also sings as Johnny Cash, and it's quite impressive.

The story of how Johnny Cash became Johnny Cash traces from his childhood under a distant father (Robert Patrick) to his early attempts at a music career, during which he married his girlfriend Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin). During a tour with the likes of Elvis (Tyler Hilton) and Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Malloy Payne), he encounters singer June Carter (Reese Witherspoon), and his love for her--and her rejection of him through the years--spurs him into drugs, drinking, and depression. As with most movies based on real-life singers, as his popularity grows, the women come a-flockin', and the childhood demons surface. Witherspoon, who matches Phoenix drawl for drawl, plays June both as a sassy spitfire whose charm breaks your heart, and as a sympathetic friend who tries to help Cash get over--well, her. The love story is what endures, but the ...

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Details

Director: James Mangold
Genre: Drama, Music, Musical
DVD Release Date: February 28, 2006
Runtime: 136 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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