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Overall Rating
4.29

Awesome45.99%
Worth A Look: 40.88%
Average: 10.95%
Pretty Bad: 0.73%
Total Crap: 1.46%

11 reviews, 71 user ratings


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Walk the Line
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by Jason Whyte

"Stuck inside of Mobile with the Mephis...oops, wrong guy..."
4 stars

There’s a part of me that will always remember a bit of Johnny Cash’s music no matter where my travels take me. I try my best to appreciate as much of the arts that I can, be it every aspect of cinema, writing, poetry and especially music. And there has always been something about Cash’s music that has hit a part of the subconscious the way that good music can. “Walk The Line” isn’t the most perfect capture of Johnny Cash’s life; a complete biopic may take a few more hours or possibly an HBO miniseries; and while that may be long down the road, for now, this look into what made Mr. Cash the writer and musician has some great music sequences and some award-worthy acting work.

The film opens in the early 40’s, where we see Johnny Cash as a child growing up in Arkansas. We see not only his first interest in music but also the horrors of living in a poor family, and as the years progress to the early 50s with Cash, we see a man with desires wanting to break out of his existence. As he returns from a tour of duty in Germany in 1955, he begins Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two which at first sounds like a gospel band, and there’s a great scene where Cash auditions with a “Typical Gospel Tune” and the record producer asks if Mr. Cash has anything else he’d like to play. What results changes Cash as a performer and as a person and is the key to his success.

Down the road, Cash experiences stardom, fans and awards while touring with the likes of Jerry Lewis, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. But it’s June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) who makes an indelible spot in his life; a kind soul that becomes the ultimate challenge for Mr. Cash. It is known pretty early that Cash has fallen for June, and perhaps it is because of this or his past that he becomes distanced from the world around him, leading to substance abuse.

The aspects involving Cash’s personal life, especially with his pill-popping, boozing and pining endlessly for June is where “Walk The Line” could have trimmed down and bettered itself. Yes, this happened to Cash over the course of many years, and yet the film tries our patience when we are not on stage watching him work. As well, we never see much of a relationship between Cash and his first wife (played here by Ginnifer Goodwin who never really seems to age over the course of over 15 years of the story) that we almost want to question why Cash ever married her in the first place. Director James Mangold (“Cop Land”, “Girl Interrupted”) directs these sequences somewhat flatly.

With that said, the scenes of Cash performing far outweigh these flaws; filmed with a live concert feel, it truly takes us into what made Cash unique as a musician . The film’s standout occurs where Cash does his famous performance at Folsom prison in 1969. Having listened to this live recording several times, I never really got the feeling of actually being there as Cash spoke directly to the inmates and how they reacted to his show, and I guess it is the closest we’ll get to what it actually felt like.

Joaquin Pheonix gives a great performance as Cash; yes, we see the recognizable Joaquin Pheonix when we watch the film, but he so fully channels his persona and charisma, especially when he was roaring with energy on stage, that he disappears into the role. He is matched by Reese Witherspoon in one of her best performances to date as the kind yet opinionated June Carter. Watch Witherspoon’s nuances carefully, especially on how well she does a poker face on stage with Cash, even right after they have emerged from a fight.

“Walk The Line” is far from perfect, with its several roadblocks involving pacing and character that are outweighed by its strong positives, and it emerges as an entertaining if slight look into one of the most memorable icons in music. And in case anyone is wondering, my favorite Cash tune is “Ring of Fire.” I went down, down, down, and the flames went higher…

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12838&reviewer=350
originally posted: 11/24/05 06:08:41
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/27/16 Joanie One of Joaquin Phoenix's best movies. 5 stars
5/16/11 Dr.Lao Well acted but painted-by-the-numbers musician biopic 3 stars
8/01/10 the dork knight Boozy musician is an older than dirt trope. Still, Pheonix is great as adorkable Cash 5 stars
2/21/09 tracy what are the pills that he is taking in the movie? 5 stars
8/27/08 Jeff Wilder Pretty good. Different from Ray in its approach to the story. 4 stars
5/29/08 PAUL SHORTT A STRONGLY ACTED, MUSICALLY VIBRANT, CONVENTIONALLY SATISFYING BIOPIC 4 stars
5/09/08 Karrie Millheim Its a great movie, a real good job of showing them 5 stars
12/27/07 Ionicera typical musician biopic, nothing that special here 3 stars
10/19/07 catherine garcia so real 5 stars
10/18/07 Beau great film! an enjoyable film with great performances 4 stars
3/06/07 Robin Hudspeth Great movie, shows the ugly side as well as the good of this love story. 5 stars
2/23/07 dmitry At best a mediocre TV movie of the week...someone should tell Mr.Phoenix to stop acting 1 stars
2/20/07 Tiffany I loved this movie. Reese witherspoon is good in every movie. 5 stars
11/25/06 Janet I REALLY ENJOYED THE MOVIE IT WAS GREAT JOAQUIN AND REESE DONE A AWESOME JOB 5 stars
11/05/06 kid reese witherspoon was born for this movie. she was excellent. she sang good, she acted good 5 stars
10/06/06 Kara I loved it! 5 stars
8/13/06 cody a very good movie about life johnny cash and june carter, reese witherspoon is awesome 4 stars
8/05/06 jalnaiz good, very motivating 5 stars
7/29/06 Heather Marie worth a try 4 stars
7/28/06 Lizzie not this one 2 stars
7/17/06 JenDenmark Great acting, good story, quite entertaining! 5 stars
5/01/06 Del Other people's lives are more interesting than mine 5 stars
4/28/06 Hilda semen THis movie was stupid!!!!!!!!!! This should never be shown again!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
4/21/06 Becky One of my favorites. Great impersonations on the voices, good character devel. 5 stars
4/19/06 Bill Chubbuck Reese is perfect 5 stars
4/01/06 Rose Marie this is an extrodinary film about a legendary star. I thought it was one of the best films. 5 stars
3/25/06 Lea Anne I ABSOLUTELY loved the movie...had no idea that they were doing their own singing. 5 stars
3/23/06 Annie G Just because a famous singer dies, doesn't automatically mean his life is worthy of a movie 3 stars
3/18/06 Elizabeth Go watch it. Now 5 stars
3/18/06 Hydrogen Amazing. A great movie, worthy of all its praise. 5 stars
3/18/06 MP Bartley Utter formula...but mixed to perfection. Phoenix and Witherspoon are wonderful. 5 stars
3/15/06 Shannon Robles jouquin pheonix was brilliant, when you are watching the movie you really believe that you 5 stars
3/13/06 Roderick Cromar I liked this one. 4 stars
3/08/06 Carolyn Rathburn Wonderful, loved it, well done 5 stars
3/08/06 James good movie, 2 disc dvd special features are crap worst special edition ever 4 stars
3/08/06 Katie Amazing performances by Reese and Joaquin along with impressive singing. 5 stars
3/07/06 Nobody Good movie, good acting, plenty of Cash songs. What more do you want? 5 stars
3/04/06 Green Gremlin Johnny Cash will always kick ass !!!!! 5 stars
2/25/06 PAG Great movie. One of the best from 2005. 5 stars
2/13/06 alice Great acting ! 5 stars
2/09/06 helen bradley Joaquin Phoenix great, bit slow in parts 4 stars
1/21/06 Kristina Williams That end scene brought tears to my eyes...great flick 5 stars
1/17/06 Jared Wilson With all the stories they could tell, they told the same story as Ray did in 2004. Shame. 3 stars
1/13/06 Rosita It is so natural 5 stars
1/01/06 ALDO Robert Patrick rules. Yeah, formulaic, but much better than Ray,which felt like a TVmovie 4 stars
1/01/06 carol whoa! I grew up with this music, also in my home we listened to leadbelly... this is rural 5 stars
12/25/05 Reese rather see a movie abour a boy named Sue 3 stars
12/24/05 Mike V Formula bio-pic - but extremely well done. 5 stars
12/22/05 tina mateer great,wonderful movie of johnny cash and june! I plain on buying the dvd someday 5 stars
12/18/05 ownerofdajoint Struggling to overcome life's endless battles with brokenness is done well here 5 stars
12/07/05 malcolm great performances, but these musician bio movies are pretty much all the same 4 stars
12/01/05 bobbi What's the point? Is the movie saying that he's a hero for leaving his wife? 3 stars
11/30/05 Sandra Kerbow Wonderful. I will buy it and watch it over and over 5 stars
11/29/05 Suzz great performances make this worth seeing 4 stars
11/29/05 Marilyn Awesom Strong performances loved the music 5 stars
11/28/05 millersxing A weepy introduction to Johnny Cash for the uninitiated. 3 stars
11/27/05 Billie This was awesome. I've already seen it twice and will buy the DVD when it comes out 5 stars
11/26/05 Ahnold Great movie to introduce Cash to younger generation. Strong performances by all. 5 stars
11/26/05 ajay certainly worth a look. 4 stars
11/25/05 Idiot_for_LMP Great Performances as the buzz has been saying. Didn't like the story. Not a Cash fan. 3 stars
11/23/05 bentable Just wow 5 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Very strong acting. Contrived story. Cash was the man! 4 stars
11/22/05 Taylor Fladgate This movie will stay with you for days. 5 stars
11/22/05 Sasha This movie really moved me, it was a rollercoaster of emotions. Oscars better be handed out 5 stars
11/20/05 Joe Smaltz Oscar material all the way 5 stars
11/19/05 Jonathon Holmes nothing more than a retrad of "Ray" 3 stars
11/19/05 Rick Rivera This film honors an amazing talent and a couple that truly completed one another. 5 stars
10/24/05 Reini Urban Mangold learned some tricks, but still is Mangold. Strong Witherspoon indeed 4 stars
10/17/05 caitlin Witherspoon should get a BA nom. 5 stars
10/13/05 Bob Moore performance risks taken with gratifying results 5 stars
9/30/05 walktheline This movie was amazing. I loved Joaquin and especially Reese. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Nov-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 28-Feb-2006

UK
  03-Feb-2006 (12A)

Australia
  02-Feb-2006




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