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WALK THE LINE (2005 PG-13)
"Walk the Line" is a stunning homage to the "Man in Black", country/rock music legend Johnny Cash and his loyal friend and wife-to-be, Mrs. June Carter Cash. Beginning with his childhood the film takes you through the major events that shaped Johnny into an apathetic rock crooner who won the heart of both women and prison inmates alike. With standards like "sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll" the stellar cast and sympathetic vision brings to life the amazing love story between two revolutionary icons of the 1960's music industry and their struggle to 'walk the line'.
Written by: Gill Dennis and James Mangold.
Directed by: James Mangold.
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music.
Rated: PG-13 for thematic material, some language and drug use.
Tagline: He just happened!
Beginning in 1968 the "Walk the Line" biopic commences with a quick montage of Folsom Prison where a middle-aged Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) is awaiting to perform to an equally anxious crowd. Flash back to 1944 where a young J.R. Cash (Ridge Canipe) is about to undergo a life-altering tragedy-the death of his elder brother Jack Cash (Lucas Till) in a tragic sawmill accident. In between his normative ranting and violent fits, Johnny's father, Ray Cash (Robert Patrick) curses him as the cause behind his brother's tragically incidental death while his mother, Carrie Cash (Shelby Lynne) stands fearfully by in silence. From thereon, even in 1955 when J.R. is prepared to head off to war, albeit in Germany, his father and he indifferently part ways and so the estrangement continues.
Meanwhile, during his 2 year stint over seas Johnny religiously calls a young beauty soon to be Mrs. Vivian Cash (Ginnifer Goodwin). Several years, one kid and one on-the-way later and Johnny is doing his best to keep his marriage and his life afloat on hopes and dreams of making it big in the music business. After a happenstance, and nearly failed interview with a music producer, Cash's dreams are about to come true.
Texas, 1955: Johnny prepares to open after a hit act when serendipity strikes again; this time its good luck in the guise of the sassy and vivacious June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) whose quirky humor paves the way for Cash's effortless entrance into stardom. Just as soon as he opens his voice with the humble but striking, "Hello. I'm Johnny Cash" stardom begins. Soon Johnny is touring from town to town earning more stripes and popularity along the way. Likewise he's gaining a friendship with the earthbound Miss Cash who consoles Cash's falling victim to the overwhelmingly exhausting mania and lonely nights on the road. But though Johnny seems to be a class act with the public, at home his third-trimester pregnant wife is enraged by the "obscene" fan mail flowing into the Cash household via Cash's ever-popular hit "At Folsom Prison". With a hectic road schedule and abounding female admirers Vivian's jealousy and desperation to bring her husband back home skyrockets.
But between her incessant cynicism, lack of support for Cash's now very lucrative dream job, and her ever growing jealousy (albeit justified), Cash is starting to seek much needed female companionship in the bubbly Miss Carter. However, fresh off a divorce and in full light of a "world of judgment" apparently June is in no hurry to complicate her platonic friendship with Mr. Cash, at least not just yet. As fame ensues and Cash' marriage slowly descends into inescapable failures, several rounds of "groupies" suddenly seem more comforting than his wife's incessant cynicism and June's interminable rejections. Still the budding friendship between June and Johnny produces much scandal, particular under the scrutinizing eye of Vivian.
While their friendship grows Mangold inserts the inevitable "fishing scene" where June takes the reigns, this time literally (though arguably her role as "leader" in the relationship is evident from the start) and shows Mr. Cash just how to cast a good reel in life; and of course there's the infamous first live duet "Time's A' Wastin'" and the much needed drama that ensues immediately thereafter between Johnny and June.
But soon enough, as everyone who knows the story of Mr. and Mrs. Johnny and June Cash knows, smooth sailing will find its way for the two lovebirds. But of course that's quite a few duos and improper advances on June later and suddenly Johnny finds his "friend" married to a stock car driver and he, in response, wallowing his pain and despair in pills and alcohol. Thus begins the personal trappings needed for the dramatic production of the infamous 'ballad' "Walk the Line" and June's song, to be one of Johnny's top hits, "Ring of Fire".
Soon enough however, as in 1958, "it just happened" and the "man in black" with the sound that "just is" will also become the new man in Miss carter's life after the , to the dismay of thousands of prepubescent and post-pubescent female hearts alike Still, with scandalous rumors abounding, disapproving parents and an even more skeptical Vivian cash, and a plethora of pills making their way into Cash's system one can only hope that his new affair with June will be a more successfully stable relationship than the precedent template with Vivian ex-Cash. As Johnny collapses mid-song from an OD during a live performance it seems that perhaps fairytale endings may not be in the headings for the man in black after all. One canceled tour and a drug bust later and Cash earns himself a first class ticket to prison with a brokenhearted June and despairing wife in the wake of his personal crisis.
Of course a messy divorce ensues with Vivian driving off with Cash's two girls…which, one year later, drives a desperate Johnny Cash to grovel, on behalf of his love, for June Carter. As he promises, he will "walk the line"- the "June line" for Johnny; the straight line for June. But it will take a new house and a sobering Thanksgiving via a reunion with his ever disapproving father, followed by a Christian intervention from the Carter's to break Johnny of his habits once and for all. With a fresh head on his shoulders Johnny makes his way, June following shortly behind, to Folsom prison where he will, being a good 'Christian' and all, kick off a comeback tour, singing to the inmates who find inspiration and solace in the notoriety and music of the man in black. Still, those big 'Christian's' at the record studio avidly desist in supporting Cash's dated, or politically aversive (whichever, but likely the latter) "anti-Christian" ventures. All the same, the inmates at Folsom, and likewise, the public eat it up. Ladies and gentlemen the man in black is back, with a new wife to celebrate his success, Mrs. June Cash, or maybe not just yet. All the same, next stop, Ontario Canada…
"Walk the Line" is an amazing poetic and poignant adventure of the trials and tribulations of the life and legend of country music rocker Johnny Cash and his troubled personal life and scandalous celebrity. A man with a cutting-edge sound, uncanny look, and a penchant for prescription pills and sympathy for prison inmates finds himself grappling to stay afloat and achieve the American Dream on the musical road to stardom. With best friend, the stunning Reese Witherspoon as June Carter, at his side, together the two tackle the rumors, scandals, and all things notorious to the business while back at home wife Vivian Cash does her best to turn a blind eye and raise the Cash's children.
"Walk the Line" is an uncanny, one of a kind film and together Joaquin Phoenix, Gennifer Goodwin, and Reese Witherspoon bring the manic tale that is the legend of the 'Man in Black' to life-making realistic what seems all fame and glorified notoriety. The three give the performances of their lives and Reese and Phoenix are point-blank knockouts with a chemistry and pizzazz that sparkles on camera. Reese Witherspoon was more than deserving of her Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role and arguably Joaquin Phoenix was just as much deserving of winning the award for his Oscar nominated role for Best Actor. All the same the fact that he doesn't walk away with the Oscar doesn't lessen the impact or the greatness of his performance as one of America's greatest country/rock music legends. What's more, that both Witherspoon and Phoenix successfully tackle the lofty musical requirements and expectations of the film, lending talented voices to helping mimic the sound of American greats, is a great enough feat to render this film a success in need of public viewing.
Technically the cinematography was brilliant. It was fluid, poetic, and Mangold had a specific vision which, through the use of particular color schemes, song slectiong, wide shot frames, and manipulation of chronological temporality, is achieved almost effortlessly. The film is a series of flashbacks and present-day narrative, intermingled with the thoughts of a retrospective character and Mangold makes the mayhem a stable haven through which to narrate the friendship and love between two troubled musicians in a time where concepts like revolutionary and cutting-edge were anything but Christian, or publicly acceptable. In the end Mangold pays homage to one of America's great duos, enlisting some of America's most talented actors to do the job, which, thankfully, was never a problem. From start to finish Phoenix and Witherspoon capture your heart as much each other's as Johnny and June Cash respectively. If nothing else, this film is testament to the power of humanity, friendship, and love as radiating from two of America's prolific historic greats.
"Walk the Line's" Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role as Mrs. June Carter-Cash. Additionally the film was nominated for four other Oscars: Best Achievement in Editing (Michael McCusker); Best Achievement in Costume Design (Arianne Phillips); Best Achievement in Sound; and Best Male Actor (Joaquin Phoenix). In addition to its Oscar recognition "Walk the Line" also garnered another 20 wins including the American Cinema Editors' Award for Best Edited Feature Comedy or Musical (Michael McCusker); the Art Directors Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design-Contemporary Film; and 3 Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture; Best Performance by a Male Lead (Joaquin Phoenix), and Best Performance by a Female Lead (Reese Witherspoon). "Walk the Line" also received another 16 critical film association nominations.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny "J.R." Cash, the infamous country rockin' "man in black".
Reese Witherspoon plays June Carter-Cash, Cash's best friend and 2nd wife-to-be.
Ginnefer Goodwin plays Vivian Cash, Johnny's high school sweetheart and first wife.
Robert Patrick plays Ray Cash, Johnny Cash's disgruntled father.
Shelby Lynne plays Carrie Cash, Johnny's mother.
Tyler Hilton plays Elvis Presley; Waylon Payne plays Jerry Lee Lewis; and Jonathan Rice plays Roy Orbison: Johnny's contemporary musical posse and competition.
Dan John Miller plays Luther Perkins and Dallas Roberts plays Sam Phillips: Johnny's happenstance band members.
Ridge Canipe plays young Johnny "J.R" Cash; Lucas Till plays young Jack Cash; and Carly Nahon plays young Reba Cash- the "Cash kids".