A Fine 'Line'

Fri, 11/25/2005 - 10:04am
By: Emily Baldwin

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest Johnny Cash fan out there. In fact, before seeing the biopic, “Walk the Line,” my knowledge in all things Cash was limited to references to ‘the man in black’ or the songs everyone knows like “Ring of Fire.”

I wanted to go see the film for this very reason. Last year the big music biopic with Oscar-buzz was “Ray” and rightly so. I wanted to see the newest two hour history lesson featuring two of the biggest names in Hollywood, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, portraying Johnny Cash and his second wife June Carter Cash.

The film begins with a scene from Cash’s famous San Quentin prison performance. The film then takes us back to Cash’s childhood. He grew up in the midwest with a mother who loved gospel music and a father he could never please. He was inseparable from his older brother until he died in a tragic accident while working at the mill. His brother’s death and his father’s constant criticism had a profound influence on Cash’s life.

The film follows Cash through his early career days and his rise to fame in Memphis. The majority of the film focuses on Cash’s struggles with drug addiction and family problems including his divorce to his first wife. Much of the content of this film biopic was taken directly from Cash’s autobiography.

Cash and his wife June, who passed away just 4 months apart in 2003, participated in and approved of the selection of Phoenix and Witherspoon to portray them. Both actors trained intensely for their parts, studying with voice and dialect coaches, and their hard work pays off. Both Phoenix and Witherspoon did all of their own singing and playing in the film, and they manage to nail their roles with the sincerity that made Cash and his wife legends.

The film is full of great music including some of Cash’s biggest hits as well as songs from other popular artists of the time. Cash spent a good deal of time touring with Elvis, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis as well as June Carter Cash.

My prediction: “Walk the Line” is sure to receive more than a few Academy Award nominations and Pheonix will likely walk away with the Oscar. Of course, Witherspoon may also take the Oscar as this is her best performance I’ve seen yet.

Whether you are a fan of the country legend they call “The Man in Black” or you simply love music, “Walk the Line” is a film to see.


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