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  • Whenever I see so much "Oscar worthy" tags/blurbs in an ad campaign I get nervous, see Cinderella Man. Usually you look closely at the fine print and see that the esteemed critic lauding the film is Joe Schmoe from the One Stop Light Bugle Press in Buttcreek, Illinois or a low level flunky who just happens to work for the media conglomerate that is distributing the film. So my heart sank a little when a film I have been eagerly awaiting was swaddled with such praise when the ads hit the air.

    But they're right for once.

    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 representation.

    And yet Phoenix may not give the best performance in the film.

    Reese Witherspoon more than holds up her end in a role that easily could have been reduced to a clichéd bumpkin. Witherspoon portrays the on-stage June in the way June portrayed her own "character", the stage persona that people adored, while giving her the resolve and inner strength to be the woman who tamed a hell-bent, grizzly bear of a man like John.

    The chemistry of Phoenix and Witherspoon together in any scene, but their on-stage duets in particular, are truthful in a way that resonates long after the credits. I know that unless you have been living in a cave for the past week you have likely been bombarded with the word that the actors sing themselves without use of lip syncing. I have never been a fan of musicals, or even musical performances in a film. They generally seem forced and uncomfortable to me, the moment when I stop experiencing the story and feel reminded that I am watching a movie. I never felt that in this film. I never felt that their singing took the focus of the film, but the performances work with the story like no other music bio I have ever seen. I never felt as if I was being led through the catalog, the songs felt as organic and natural as any spoken dialog in a great narrative.

    This film far exceeded my expectations and afforded me the first trip home from a theater with a true feeling of satisfaction in a very, very long time. Highly recommended.
  • Wow, what a film. I had been waiting to see this movie since I read that Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon were cast in the lead roles. I was not sure what to expect when I heard they were going to do their own singing, but was I ever impressed. Their performances in this movie were brilliant, and I had chills down my spine. It was truly amazing how much Phoenix sounded like Johnny Cash-this was a role he was born to play, and he was mesmerizing. Totally sizzling. Witherspoon was positively radiant as June Carter, and talk about chemistry between the two actors. Talk about lightning striking! I only hope they are rewarded for their efforts come Oscar time. This was a truly amazing movie, filled with great music, a top-notch supporting cast and a terrific script which was wonderfully directed.
  • radioriot18 November 2005
    Considering the formula junk coming out of Hollywood these days, I was blown away by how good this movie was. The direction was perfect. Using close ups to get us in under the skin of Johnny Cash. And since it was a period piece, he could have bored us with lots of cgi of Memphis and L.A. to take us back in time. Instead he used the actors and the music to take us there. Biopics naturally have a formula to them, but the director and screenwriter did not take us down the track of overly sentimental scenes. These were real and done with a bit of well placed humor. Just like real life. Afterall you still have to follow the real lives of Johnny and June. You can't make it up, just to be original! The movie was also a movie you can take most of the family to. No nudity and sex to SHOW how in love they are, just real dialog...it's nice to hear REAL dialog and not just another chase scene, or four letter word. Yes, some movies need that to tell the story, this one doesn't. This movie goes onto my short list of great biopics, with "Ray". Not much else comes close to Ray or Walk the Line. The true test of any biopics is: can you still understand the plot even if you never heard of the people the movie is about. This movie is a great love story even if you never heard of Johnny and June Cash. Oscars all around I say! Plus I loved the Rockabilly music through out the movie.
  • hemphill-14 September 2005
    I've long thought that James Mangold was one of the most underrated American directors; while other acclaimed auteurs like Wes Anderson and David Gordon Green have made names for themselves by essentially repeating themselves with each film, Mangold has attracted considerably less attention for actually having the gall to show some range. Like the great directors of the Hollywood studio system, Mangold shows visual and narrative skill across a wide array of genres: character-driven crime (COPLAND); horror (IDENTITY); issue-oriented drama (GIRL INTERRUPTED), etc. What each of these films shares in common is a stunningly elegant and expressive visual style, an attention to character reminiscent of Renoir, and an economy of storytelling that would make Howard Hawks envious.

    Now Mangold has delivered his masterpiece, and it's the best studio release I've seen so far this year. WALK THE LINE, Mangold's story of the relationship between Johnny Cash and June Carter, is deliriously romantic, exhiliratingly entertaining (as a musical it invites and earns comparison with the best of Vincente Minelli), and profoundly moving--all set to a spectacular soundtrack. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are both brilliant as Cash and Carter, but not only in the ways you would expect. Their most impressive achievement is to convincingly portray two people falling in love in a manner that's sincere and sweet but never cheaply sentimental. This is the most unabashedly romantic American movie since THE NOTEBOOK, but it's totally authentic and lacking in melodrama; the subtlety with which Mangold and his performers delineate the one step forward, two steps back nature of Cash and Carter's love affair is staggering. Phoenix is particularly brilliant, not only in the romantic scenes but in moments in which Cash discusses his brother's early death; in these scenes the major tragedies of both the character and the performer's lives merge in a way that is heartbreakingly real. And the movie gets across the intoxicating nature of creative collaboration between two people in love better than any film I've ever seen--perhaps no coincidence given that Mangold and his closest collaborator, producer Cathy Konrad, are married. I could (and will) go on about this movie for hours, but let's just say that it's the movie to beat for the rest of the year.
  • lreilert18 November 2005
    Walk the Line is a great movie. When you watch it, you feel as though you are watching Johny Cash in person. Juaqin Pheonix is amazing as Cash, a man with so many regrets and self doubts. Reese Witherspoon gives an Oscar performance as the love of his life June Carter. The film is long, but worth every minute. But what is great is that T Bone Burnett chose the right songs to play. When I saw it today people in the theater were singing along with the movie. And what is great, is that Pheonix and Witherspoon sand the songs themselves. This movie should win several Oscars this year. Go see it. It is an amazing film, and it perfectly protrays an amazing man.
  • robinanng19 November 2005
    I absolutely loved it. More my dad's music than mine (I was born in 1960-am a rock-n-roller), but tapped my feet the whole way thru. It is funny, I grew up with certain songs of Johnny Cash, and heard about the legend of the "man in black" for as long as I remember, but this movie adds a whole new dimension to the man, his music. I think it's great maybe a whole new generation might come to enjoy his contributions too.

    J.Phoenix and R. Witherspoon were phenomenal and made this film a joy to watch. I have not enjoyed any movie so much in a long time. Judging by the applause and the grins on the movie goers faces on the way out-I was not alone in my whole-hearted enthusiasm for the movie.

    Gonna order me a J.Cash CD!
  • Forget North Country, Walk the Line directed by James Mangold (Girl Interrupted) and written by Mangold and Gill Dennis is the better 2005 Oscar contender.

    This romantic tragedy, which is based on the autobiographies of Johnny Cash The Man in Black and Cash: the Autobiography was actually written and perfected alongside the famous duo Cash and June Carter Cash before their deaths in 2003.

    The movie begins with a young, music obsessed "J.R." Cash growing up in a poor cotton farming family in Arkansas. Shortly afterwards, a family tragedy changes his life forever.

    Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) leaves for the air force, where he is stationed in Germany, buys an old guitar and proceeds to write one of the most recorded songs in history along with many others.

    Upon returning, Cash's obsession leads him to a recording studio and into the spotlight with June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) as well as Elvis Presley (Tyler Hilton) and the comical Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Payne.) The next emotional hour and 45 minutes is filled with great music, drug dependency, infidelity, and most of all love.

    Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, who sang every song themselves, completely shined in this movie. There are no better actors that could have filled the shoes of the Carter-Cash duo. Phoenix and Witherspoon had such great chemistry, by the end of the movie you actually think they might really be in love.

    However, if you tend to get restless in longer movies, the running time of 136 minutes can start to seem a little long towards the end, but it's well worth it.

    Overall Walk the Line receives nine out of ten stars. The movie did an excellent job portraying the life of the "man in black," his soul mate and their rocky path on the way to love. If Phoenix and Witherspoon are not nominated for their amazing voices and chilling performances, it will be a great disappointment.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Walk the Line

    reviewed by Sam Osborn of www.samseescinema.com

    rating: 3.5 out of 4

    Director: James Mangold Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon Screenplay: James Mangold, Gill Dennis (based off the Johnny Cash autobiographies) MPAA Classification: PG-13 (language, drug content)

    To be honest, I've never been a fan of Johnny Cash's music. I listened to it every now and then when flipping through the presets in my car, stopping to sing along to the few lyrics I knew, but I never gave the musician much thought. Until now. For me, Walk the Line is everything Ray was not. Ray was plagued by an uneven screenplay, but got enough sentimentality and acting points for people to look past its flaws, and managed to nab a Best Picture nomination. Walk the Line, however, is worth all the press it's likely to get. With acting work just as impressive as Ray's, music just as affecting, and a screenplay that hits all the right chords, Walk the Line is a fine, fair biopic for Mr. Cash.

    The film faces the threat of what music critics call "same-songiness". A volley of biopics have been released in the past year making it only a matter of time before American audiences call it quits for the genre. Making matters worse, the story arcs for Ray and Walk the Line are essentially the same. A small time musician with tragic childhood memories goes on to become an international sensation, but finds himself wrapped up with extra-marital women and illegal drugs. Yes, it sounds like a re-hash of Ray, but believe me, Walk the Line's storytelling works much, much smoother.

    Also, what Ray lacked was romance. Yeah, yeah, I know, there was that cute scene with the hummingbird; but that little tidbit will be soon forgotten when Reese Witherspoon hits the screen. Taking on the role of June Carter, Witherspoon takes a page from her role in Vanity Fair (and not Just Like Heaven), and completely inhabits her character. Her pairing with Joaquin Phoenix yields beautiful chemistry and makes their romance believably realistic, something I frankly didn't feel with Ray.

    There's sure to be some trepidation over the fact that Director James Mangold used Phoenix and Witherspoon's real voices for Cash and Carter's songs. Again, I'm not really an authority on Johnny Cash music, but from what I've heard, Phoenix and Carter nail it. And Cash enthusiast Roger Ebert, who was in the same screening room as me and heard the same songs, stated afterwards that he was incredibly impressed by their mimicry.

    To extend my comparison between Ray and Walk the Line, I found James Mangold's directing style for Cash's biopic to be very similar to the formula used by Taylor Hackford in Ray. Each put a strong visual emphasis on the musical scenes and neither busied themselves with distracting camera tricks or visual pizazz. There are beautiful shots to be found in both films, but this is no Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener) behind the camera. Instead, where each director plays his cards is with the screenplay. And this is where Walk the Line truly shows its colors.

    Biopics are difficult in that a coherent story must be told over a great span of chronology. Films often run into the problem of trying to fit too much into a two hour film, an issue Ray suffered from. For instance, when Ray starts his downward spiral with Heroin and begins poking himself with needles, there were often straight cuts to joyous scenes of his son being born, or him returning home to his wife from a tour. The story never let itself settle down with a mood and tell a coherent story. Instead, the film jumped around so much, it left audiences dazed and numb to the emotions on-screen. But Walk the Line avoids this problem with James Mangold and Gill Dennis' screenplay, which is based off of Cash's two autobiographies. The script gives Walk the Line a backbone for the story to follow, keeping a foundation for the sub-plots to wrap themselves around. This foundation is Cash's obsession with June Carter. His childhood story and even his music are motivated by this romance. She was the center of his life up until his death, and she's the center of this film. And with Witherspoon's performance as terrific as it is, the foundation is solid as rock.

    If the American public is still willing to pay money for a musician's biopic, then Walk the Line's their film. Of the recent four I've seen (De-Lovely, Ray, Beyond the Sea), Walk the Line's the finest.

    -www.samseescinema.com
  • I don't know about "Mangold the Auteur", and might need a bit more proof that this is really a director worth paying attention to, but this is a pretty watchable film. I found the story and film-making a bit predictable, like the usual bio-pic formula that you might expect if you've seen, say, coal miner's daughter, or any other bio-pic of someone you love. What makes this movie stand out is the two lead performances. Reese is unbelievably convincing as June Carter Cash. She almost disappears into the role. And her singing! Who knew???

    And Joaquin! We've been waiting for him to deliver a really spectacular performance for some time, and this is finally it. I, for one, resisted the idea that ANYONE could portray the man in black, but he does a pretty fine job. Not just an impersonation, but actually a performance worth watching. Really fine.

    Watch for the Jackson duet. Really awesome.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Having just left the Press and Industry screening at the Toronto Fest I thought I'd pass along a few words on an Oscar contender.

    First, this is an excellent film. Second, it is formulaic, but not to a fault. The film is two great performances. Luckily, they're the right two. Phoenix has done an excellent job capturing Cash, the man. Not the legend and not what everyone thought he would be. What made Johnny Cash such an icon was that he was an "everyman" and Phoenix gives his all to not only capture every subtle nuance but also to make him believable as a flawed human being. Watch, in particular, the performance sequences, and I'd argue that it's equal to Foxx's Ray Charles without nearly as much caricature.

    There's no attempts on behalf of the filmmakers at the predestination of Cash as a superstar. They simply show how he learned to sing with a radio and a hymnal. The back story given before his career started is essential to the way his life unfolds and, for the most part, is kept in well-shot and brief sequences. There are few attempts to over-glamourize or over-dramatize the events that shaped Cash's life and career. Thankfully, as well, there are no attempts to recreate his drug use for the audience's benefit in cinematic terms.

    Reese Witherspoon's performance, as well, is surprisingly good. There are precious few points in the film where you remember she was in Legally Blonde, and her vocals and live performances are stronger than many I've seen from Hollywood actresses in recent years.

    So, with all this greatness, what could be wrong? Nothing, really. This is a solid film, but it is completely conventional. It doesn't go for the weepy Oscar moments that drown many films and it doesn't try to cover too much of the man's life focusing mostly on his years between his Sun Records contract and his "At Folsom Prison" album. If you have no love for the man himself, or his music, you may walk away underwhelmed, but otherwise you'll be pleased.

    It is a fairly standard biopic. All a filmmaker needs to make one work is a loved (or hated) subject, a decent lead performance, and as few distractions outside of that as can be managed. That is its flaw, if you must find one.

    "Walk the Line" is a well-made movie. Mangold's direction is capable, and the script stays fairly true to the biographies upon which it was based. It does have excellent performances, but barring a groundswell of support for Cash's legacy (which could arise) I don't see it running away with any awards. It will contend for some due to excellent performances. Considering "Ray" was about a half-hour too long, I'd even go so far as to say it has an excellent shot at a Best Picture nomination. But a win may be difficult.

    I'd highly recommend it, but don't say I didn't warn you if following the rules is, in fact, a bad thing.
  • "Walk the Line" is without question the zenith of Reese Witherspoon's acting career thus far. Joaquin Phoenix IS Johnny Cash in this biopic, but Reese as June Carter Cash sets this film on fire. It is one thing to portray a person's life, with feeling and emotion, something which Joaquin pulls off effortlessly. However, it is quite another to make a portrayal bigger than life, and Reese makes June Carter Cash the central character of this film.

    To say that Reese steals the show is an understatement. Reese becomes a lightning rod for Joaquin's character, in a way that is actually quite scary. After all, Reese is from Nashville, and her Southern affect is flawless and absolutely winning. Suffice it to say that Reese will thankfully be present when the Academy Awards are presented next year. She might want to get a few words ready.

    This movie will not be everyone's favorite flick, if for no other reason than that it is a biopic of flawed, Southern characters. However, perhaps the very flaws that imbue these characters with vitality and realism can establish the acting of Joaquin and Reese with an almost spiritual meaning, as they live these real people on screen. But in the final analysis, Reese Witherspoon will become the greatest contemporary screen actor upon release of this film. See for yourself. You read it here first.
  • ...........................................................from Pasto,Colombia...Via: L.A. CA., CALI, COLOMBIA.....and ORLANDO, FL

    In L. A., California, in the 50s and 60s, my daily habit of listening to TOP 40 Radio exposed me to just about every kind of music genre, pretty much all of the time! Interestingly, I eventually acquired a taste for just about all of them, to one degree or another! Well, pretty much everything…Jazz, not so much, really, and definitely NOT at all: "Country" music. The ONLY Country album I EVER bought in my ENTIRE life (Well, at least before turning 50!) was "Johnny Cash: His Greatest Hits"!

    Upon realizing that they had released a movie about his life, it immediately went to the top of my "Must See" list! What was it about his music that gave it such widespread appeal? Exactly what made Johnny Cash so special? It would be nice to be able to provide a simple, straightforward answer to both questions, but in the film, Walk the Line, it is all too clear, that in real life, when it comes to a human being, things sure can get extremely complicated! So, here we end up with a movie that mirrors the life of its lead character: very interesting, entertaining, multifaceted, but at the same time, often dark, brooding and conflicted! WALK is a film I can wholeheartedly recommend no matter how you feel about Johnny Cash and/or his music.

    Quite frankly, for the role of Johnny Cash, Joaquin Phoenix (GLADIATOR) is not someone who would have made my short list, or even my long list, for that matter! Wow, what a surprise! This actor, who was born in Puerto Rico, demonstrates tremendous versatility, both as an actor as well as a singer... (Yes, that is Joaquin Phoenix's own voice in the movie!) However, I think that, at times, Mr. Phoenix comes up just a little bit short when it comes to his ability to project his voice firmly, but his performance, in general, was so masterful, that this point is quite easily overlooked.

    What really drives WALK, what gives it its soul and keeps it focused and centered is the repressed romance between Cash and the love of his life, June Carter (Reese Witherspoon - Legally Blonde, Cruel Intentions) Joaquin Phoenix, despite shining in the title role, is overshadowed by Witherspoon's overwhelming screen presence in the scenes where they appear together. Previously, she had never really flagged my attention that much, perhaps other than her notable characterization of Tracey Flick in ELECTION. In most of her roles she seemed to be type cast as the syrupy sweet, but at the same time, somewhat annoying girl next door!

    WALK is well worth any time and money you invest to see Reese demonstrate her considerable acting talents ... And how clearly she demonstrates just how stunning those abilities are! Surely, Walk the Line, for many reasons, invites comparison with another film about the life of another famous musician, RAY. Perhaps, there are many common elements in the life of famous musicians: A tragic childhood, years struggling in anonymity, problems with alcohol and drugs, a great deal of conflict and tension in their affectative relationships and great difficulty accepting and managing fame and money. But after all, each story is real and each contains many elements that distinguishes it from others!

    8*...ENJOY!/DISFRUTELA!

    Any comments, questions or observations, in English o en Español, are welcome!
  • Growing up Johnny Cash's ambition was to make it onto the radio with his band but as an adult the reality is different. His wife and family are stuck in poor housing and he is frankly terrible at his door-to-door sales job. Unable to turn down his wife's wish to move towns and for him to take a job her father has offered, Cash turns to a local recording studio in desperation. The band's audition is unimpressive and Cash's delivery uninspiring but, giving them one last chance, the studio manager lets them do another song – which they deliver with much more passion and interest than their weak spiritual material. With a record under his belt Cash begins touring with many other rising rock and country stars as he begins a successful but storming personal and professional life.

    Without a great love for country music or for that matter biopics, Walk The Line took me some time to get round to seeing but when I did I was glad that I had because it is just simple a good film that rises above the genre. The film starts with formative moments from Cash's childhood and very quickly jumps through to adulthood, marriage and a dead-end job with no future or money. From here we know where the story is heading – even if some of the viewers may not know the specifics as they apply to Johnny Cash. So we have the career rise of Cash matched with his personal fall – much of his own making in regards women, drink and drugs. However this content is presented in a solid and engaging way because we care a lot about the characters and what is happening to them.

    Style-wise Mangold is relentlessly sturdy but never dull in his portrayal of the characters and he does well with the most important part – his actors. I do recall some questions being asked of the casting and for my money anytime Reese Witherspoon is cast I do ask questions myself. However the cast are roundly impressive and make their characters convincing and engaging. Phoenix is really good and he has great chemistry with Witherspoon, who is also excellent throughout. Robert Patrick was one of the few other faces I recognised and it made me realise that, for a "big" film, there are hardly any established stars here and yet this never even occurred to me till after I finished watching the film. In terms of the musical numbers I'm not sure who was really singing and who wasn't but they are all really good and well filmed to be engaging and exciting.

    Walk the Line is a really good biopic and I know this because it engaged me as someone with little interest in Cash or his music. In regards narrative it ticks all the boxes that you know it will but yet still manages to make it interesting and never once was I thinking "heard it all before". Of course it also helps that both Phoenix and Witherspoon deliver really effective performances to draw the viewer into the characters from the start and throughout.
  • Before watching this film, I had my doubts. Johnny Cash is one of my favourite country singers, nay, singers of all time, and I was unsure as whether, as with other mediocre biopics, namely the flashy Ray, could do him enough justice. As it turned out, Johnny gets the film he deserves, and, what's more, Walk the Line got me extremely interested in the work of his wife, June Carter Cash.

    Covering 20 years of his life, including Cash's rise into fame and delve into near-self-destruction, James Mangold concentrates on the key things in his life – his music, the drugs, and his all-consuming, untameable love for the very special June Carter Cash. It is as a romance that Walk the Line truly shines. In real life, Johnny and June didn't get together until 20 years since their first meeting, and that they could wait that long for each other, is quite poignant.

    Holding the film together are the Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning figures of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, and their chemistry pretty much carries the film. When they're together, they both dazzle, gelling perfectly, whether it's a bout of verbal jesting, they're doing a duet, or just chatting. Phoenix captures the tortured soul of Cash eloquently in one of his finest performances, and one that exudes that dangerous yet enthralling edge of danger present in Cash. His singing voice resembles that of Cash's, yet he never resorts to downright imitation, which only adds to the viewing pleasure.

    But the shining star of the film is Reese Witherspoon, as June Carter Cash. She plays the singer-songwriter-country music star that grabbed the attentions of Johnny Cash, but proved a hard win, forcing him to quit his narcotic dependence and violent self-destruction before she'd consider him. Although many have disliked Witherspoon's work her, I simply adore it. She makes June a truly memorable, Crouchesque, person. For the audience, she can be goofy and lovable, but alone, with Johnny, she displays a vulnerable side. Witherspoon here radiates a strong, feminist, yet effortlessly lovable vibe, and every scene she appears in, she steals.

    The look and feel of Johnny's time are captured well in the set design and T-Bone Burnett guitar-led score, and the costumes are nothing short of sublime. The dressing of Cash is inspired, but it is June's clothes – floral print, pink, domestic, or snazzy, that, again, steal the show. Each of Reese's costumes captures the mood of her characters.

    There's also great fun to be had in the musical numbers. Ring of Fire and Jukebox Blues allow the audience to get their toes tapping, but my favourite number is the performance of Jackson, where their unmatched chemistry is showcased in one of my favourite songs of all-time. Like the film, this song is entertaining, sweet, and more intelligent than frequently given credit for.
  • Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.

    I've seen a lot of singer biopics: all the way from the Buddy Holly Story to Coal Miner's Daughter. This one can't quite make it to Coal Miner, but it's light years ahead of Buddy. I read a review today that said that Joaquin was too short and Reese was too pretty to play Johnny and June. The reviewer was right, but what the hell does that have to do with great acting. They got it right and this old hillbilly cried, that's right--cried--at every historical landmark they hit. Oscars for Joaquin and Reese--that's all I want.

    woody pulps

    Walk The Line update 03/19/2006.

    A retraction is in order. Not only have I come to realize this movie beats all the singer biopics, in my opinion, it beats all biopics and, indeed, has become my favorite movie...period. Read Jack Shaw's comment below. It's worth your time.(I did exactly what you asked and resisted a comment on a comment, but I gave in even though I tried).

    Oh, and by the way, if Dan John Miller wasn't channeling Luther on the guitar, there is no such thing.

    Great lines from the movie:

    June Carter...June Carter...when will you be mine? (sing it to the tune of Hey, Porter).

    June: I surmise you haven't been to bed. An intoxicated Johnny: surmiiiiiise....

    Luther Perkins: It's in A....A (nods 'yes' to Marshall Grant).

    June: I got tangled!

    woody pulps
  • I was delighted when John Carter Cash, invited me to attend the premier showing of "Walk The Line".

    I hope that those who view this movie will see the spiritual connections between John, his family, and those with whom he choose to associate. I am privileged to have been one of those who John called a friend. And to the producers and directors: It would be a blessing if the story of Johnny and June Cash's remarkable lives is continued from the point at which "Walk The Line" ended.

    Johnny Cash and I were close personal friends for over twenty years. I loved him as a brother and miss him dearly. In the early 90's he asked me to call him every day… and I did so, as much as possible, for the many remaining years of our friendship. I would talk with him daily whether we were traveling the world, with me as the official 'Johnny Cash Show minister (or evangelist)', or while off the road and at home. We would talk about the things that most friends talk about, but always… always, about God, the Bible, a new or a favorite verse or passage, life's many challenges… and encourage one another in overcoming them.

    John was one of the brightest individuals I've ever met… and, at times, as the film shows, one of the most troubled. John was one of God's sheep. He was, as the movie shows, living proof that redemption knows no limits other than our own refusal to accept it. Just as evening wolves stalk sheep, so the wolves of darkness pursued John. Yet, somehow, I believe he knew that even though a sheep cannot triumph over a wolf… he can beat it every time by staying close to the shepherd… and showed up at the feet of God quite often.

    June Carter Cash was also a treasured friend. She graciously laid aside the opportunities of her own career and gifted talent to become John's life-long soul mate and a fiercely loyal devotee to keeping him happy, and making him 'walk the line'. Reese Witherspoon portrayed June accurately. June was also a faithful gatekeeper for John, and taught all of us (who were allowed through that 'gate') the grit and grace of friendship… once a friend… a friend always. The world will never be the same without June… and, likewise; Heaven will never be the same with her there.

    I deeply enjoyed this film. Overall, I felt that the story was credible and portrayed accurately.

    I commend Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon for delivering 'believability'. This was certainly a far from easy task, drawing deeply from their God-given talent, when you consider the extraordinary lives of the complex and unique individuals they portrayed.

    I was appreciative of the spiritual content that was gracefully present for it was such a vital part of their lives. Joaquin Phoenix's insightful handling of the life-long struggle that John endured regarding his brother Jack's disastrous death, renewed deep emotions within me. John and I each lost an older brother in tragic accidents when we were young. This gave me an even deeper sense of, and identification with the pain he suffered, but rarely talked about.

    There is much more that I could express about this significant film regarding the unique and remarkable lives portrayed in Walk The Line, and the treasured friendship and fellowship that God allowed John and I to share. If John could, I believe he would ask me to help others understand how he felt about God and how he tried to live his life. Therefore, please allow me to share a letter that he wrote to me in Australia.

    "Jack Shaw's ministry, in tandem with the Johnny Cash Show, may be a first in the entertainment business. The Idea came to June and me on a tour last summer. Jack has long been a close friend and prayer warrior for our group and family. Before each concert we form a prayer circle in the dressing room with our family and any other members of the group who wish to join in. Jack leads a five-minute service of scripture reading, sharing and prayer. The service is uplifting and has put a positive power-edge on our performances.

    Recently we took what I felt was a bold step, in that, toward the end of the concert I introduce Jack (who is positioned near the stage in the audience) and mention that he will be there after the concert to offer free counseling and advice on moral and spiritual matters. I tell them that he is a minister of the Gospel, and will talk to them about their personal problems, drug and alcohol addiction or simply about the Bible and what God has to say to them. As well as daily ministering to the needs of my eighteen-member group, many people have come down to talk to Jack after the concert every night.

    Lives are changed, souls are saved, spirits are lifted and light is brought into the darkness of many hearts.

    We are being led by inspiration, and I believe that God is guiding Jack in this great work he is now doing. The potential is unlimited and we feel Jack is just beginning in a great work. He gives us strength and peace through the Word and prayer. June and I feel supercharged, especially for the gospel part of our program. Jack's presence and his involvement in our work has given us an extra portion of joy and enthusiasm.

    Jack is a humble man, and it is obvious that he only wants to serve God. Believers and non-believers alike have come to know that and respect that. Jack Shaw Ministries has cut a new path and the fruit of the harvest from the seeds sown along the way will be bountiful." Johnny Cash, Perth, Australia / Rev. Jack Shaw / Copyright 2005 -Jack Shaw Ministries
  • "Walk the Line" is a good movie, but what makes it well worth going out of your way for, even if you are not a country music or Johnny Cash fan, is Joaquin Phoenix's raw, mesmerizing performance of masculine power and vulnerability. Phoenix deserved the Academy Award for this performance, and more.

    Early in the film, music producer Sam Phillips, in a wonderful speech encapsulating the power of pop music, demands a great performance out of the then unknown "J. R. Cash." Cash, who has not yet sung professionally, and who could have crumpled after Phillips' challenge, slowly emerges out of himself, like a snake emerging out of its skin. Phoenix communicates both the power and the risk of this performance. You heart breaks for what he's going through, and you get goosebumps for what he's about to become. That scene is worth the price of admission.

    But there's more: success, sex with groupies, drugs, onstage triumphs and embarrassments, near death, and resurrection. Phoenix just knocks every scene right out of the park.

    Phoenix is unforgettable as a man in love. I've never seen an actor communicate "in love with" a woman as profoundly as Phoenix does here.

    As for the singing -- Phoenix does his own singing. His voice is close enough to Cash's to work, but it's more than that. It's also arresting and beautiful and worth listening to on its own.

    There are some weaker performances / underwritten parts in "Walk the Line." Perhaps the filmmakers did this in order to make Cash, a drug addict and adulterer, more sympathetic to the audience. This was a mistake. Cash's story is compelling enough; we could handle placing Cash in a world populated by real people rather than cardboard cutouts.

    "Walk the Line"'s Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison are not as hyper and unique onstage as they were in real life. Lewis, onstage, was about five times more electrified than he is depicted here. "Walk the Line"'s Elvis Presley is about junk food, trash talk, and drugs. The real Elvis was about those things, too, but he was also something more; that's not even hinted at, here.

    The worst example of making others look like less so Cash would look like more is the film's portrayal of Vivian Cash, Johnny's first wife. She's just an unbearable horror show of a woman: unsupportive, grasping, snappish. She's not given one sympathetic moment. Vivian and Johnny's daughters have protested that Vivian was not well served by the movie. And Cash's mother is played by an actress who is roughly the same age as Phoenix, and that shows.

    Reese Witherspoon won the Academy Award for her depiction of June Carter Cash. She is good. The script didn't make as clear her role as Cash's savior as Cash's own comments have.

    I'm not a huge fan of country music, so I delayed seeing this movie. When I finally saw it what made it worth it, to me, was Phoenix's performance. He's just riveting, in every scene, and well worth seeing this movie for.
  • Watching this movie yesterday couldn't help but remind me, in a number of respects. to "Ray," a film out a year earlier. Both were biographies of singers of a similar era, the main difference between the color of their skin, Ray being Ray Charles, of course, and this movie about Johnny Cash.

    Both singers (and films):

    1 - had a brother who died early on in their lives which affected them for years and years; 2 - were made to feel guilty about those deaths even though there was no reason for that guilt; 3 - had adulterous affairs as their singing careers began to take off; 4 - became addicted to drugs and beat that addiction; 5 - made bold decisions regarding their careers that went against prevailing thought but turned out to be the right decisions; 6 - movies featured outstanding music and slick photography; 7 - movies were fast-moving and interesting to view all the way through despite being over two hours long; 8 - featured wonderful acting performances.

    In Walk The Line, Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Cash, goes one up on Jamie Foxx, who played Charles, because Phoenix did his own singing....and he was very good. The same applies to Reese Witherspoon as "June Carter." Her singing talent surprised me. It makes the film all the more believable when you know the actors are actually singing.

    I am not familiar with Ginnifer Goodwin, who played Cash's first wife, but I think she gets unfairly ignored in the publicity of this film. Perhaps the biggest surprise was seeing Robert Patrick as Cash's father. Wasn't this the same young, trim villain in Terminator 2, which wasn't out that long ago? How can this be the same guy?!!

    I think this was the better of the two films, not just because of the realism but Charles seemed almost cold, no love in him, no commitment to any woman or his own kids, while Cash has a lot of more heart to him, even if it was misplaced at times.

    That seems to be the major theme of the WTL movie: the romance between Cash and Carter. Unfortunately, that's my only complaint about this film. This movie glamorizes this affair between Cash and Carter just a little too much, manipulating the audience to the point where we all want this couple to live happily ever after forgetting that Cash was married to another nice woman with two kids. Yeah, some of the ugly parts of adultery are shown but not to the degree the sweetness of this illicit romance is portrayed. The movie does not send a strong enough message that the right thing to do is for Cash to be a good father and husband in the first place and for Carter to stay away from him - period. The worst scene in the film might be Cash's two kids crying their eyes out watching their parents fight. Adultery always kills the kids more than anyone, which is one big reason I was sorry to see the Cash & Carter affair so romanticized.

    I'd have liked to have seen Cash's prison ministry detailed a little more since he was so faithful in that area, and his Christian testimony in general, which was very strong his last few decades, but the film didn't deal with those last three decades. Too bad, but understandable since there is just so much you can show in two hours. The filmmakers took the tried-and-true road of a romance story instead, which makes sense business-wise.

    With all the goods and bads, the film succeeds on being a great piece of entertainment with fantastic music, acting, visuals and a guarantee to please a lot of people, almost as many as Cash did in his eventful life. He was an amazing man and a four-hour film about "the rest of the story" would have been fine with me.
  • AnnieGis25 November 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this movie last night, and I've done nothing but talk about the movie and listen to Johnny's music ever since.

    Without a doubt, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon will be nominated for Oscars for their roles in this movie. Joaquin was just electrifying, and Reese, as the hard-headed but loving June, was simply wonderful. The music was outstanding. I'm glad Joaquin and Reese performed the songs, because I would hate to know that I'd missed hearing what wonderful voices they have. (I was especially happily surprised by Reese's voice. It's gorgeous.)

    I've read recent reports that the family of Vivian Cash (Johnny's first wife) was upset by how their mother was depicted in the movie, but I don't really understand that. Ginnifer Goodwin, another one who deserves an Oscar nomination, showed Vivian's grief of being alone, raising her daughters alone, and knowing in her heart that her husband was in love with June. According to the movie, Johnny was a horrible husband to Vivian, and I thought the movie did a good job of not sugar-coating that fact. I admit I cheered a little when she smashed the picture of June because you couldn't really blame her for doing that.

    The supporting characters were also wonderful. It was so nice to see Shooter Jennings playing the role of his father, Waylon. Another Waylon, Waylon Payne, played Jerry Lee Lewis with wide-eyed craziness. I thought Shelby Lynne, who is well-known in the country music industry, was wonderful as Johnny's mother.

    I didn't know a lot about Johnny's early years with Sun Records, so it was great to see that on screen. I also didn't know that June finally accepted John's proposal while they were on stage singing "Jackson." (I'm assuming that was true and not just movie magic.) This movie, and John and June's love story, was magical. I don't find it surprising that John died four months after June passed. It was obvious that she was the love of his life.
  • bobwal2-121 November 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    I am not a country music fan at all. I always respected Johnny Cash and his huge influence over today's music, but I am by no means a big fan of his. That is, I should say until I saw this movie. When I got home from seeing it, I immediately ordered "Live From Folsom Prison" and "Live From San Quinten" on Amazon.

    This wasn't a movie at all really. It was a two and a half hour tour de force of incredible acting, great music and storytelling. You just don't get bored for one second, and can't look away the whole time. Joaquin Phoenix's performance in this film is one of the best acting jobs in recent years. He isn't acting like Johnny Cash, he IS Johnny Cash. Reese Witherspoon is also great as June Carter. The fact that Phoenix had never sung or played guitar before this movie was filmed caused me to wonder how he was going to pull this off. But his rendition of "Get Rhythm", and "Cocaine Blues" in the Folsom scene are some of the best music performances in movie history. He takes over the screen and just kicks your ass. It is hard to believe that he is not a professional musician.

    The music performances are enough to make this film worth seeing. But the love story between these two, the way that June and her family helped him back from his drug addiction are what gives the film its heart. I would recommend this film to anyone, Johnny Cash fan or not. If you don't like him now, you will when the movie is over
  • karl_consiglio10 September 2006
    I have always been very fond of his music but in truth knew pretty little about the man, so i learnt a lot about him when watching this movie. I never imagined that behind his tough cowboy image he was so fragile, delicate and weak. This is a story where love saves the day, otherwise God knows. Although even June Carter seemed prepared to have him once he gets a grip on himself alone first, and I don't blame her. From a troubled childhood, we were taken through an unhappy first marriage, the rise to fame, the hits and the heartbreaks. The movie really finds its feet when singer June Carter shows up and the pairs relationship provides the movie with a heart. Some great performance acting I must admit, pretty outstanding. The story is gripping, with Cash's life providing plenty of juicy material, but ultimately what is revealed is much more fascinating. It was not just the hard times but also, if not mostly, his love of an amazing woman that fuelled most of his musical genius.
  • tedg27 November 2005
    At one level, this is the same old thing: success, booze, redemption, comeback. Nothing new at all here and the history changed to fit the formula.

    At another level — the one most moviegoers will see — is a concert with background intended to make the concert richer. If you had ever seen John and June perform, you will know that this movie version is a whole lot better. And you may also admit that the reason you went to see them wasn't because of their music, but because of the whole story of them and what they symbolized -- and how that colored the music.

    In other words, their lives were deliberately part of the show. They made it so, even punching up John's ex-con status and other tough guy attributes. The whole Carter family developed this as a marketing strategy long before John appeared, though their lives were artificially made in the mold of wholesome, white Baptists.

    So, if you follow these things, what we have here is a nice construction: Two stage performers who make their lives part of their performance, portrayed in another performance (the movie) that features the reverse: lives illustrated through stage performances. Managing all those layers as they have makes this mildly interesting.

    And the surprise of Reese is something too, though it makes sense if you know the type that southern women played as roles in those days.

    What's missing is all the interesting stuff. John's obsession with the devil, the theories of his brother being murdered or committing suicide, the long-term weaving of paths with Bob Dylan — holy and otherwise. The debauchery. The deliberate manipulation of religion in the 70s as part of the public relations of his comeback. His phenomenal loss of weight. The rivalry among his touring mates. Deep, deep, rivalry.

    Now wouldn't all that real stuff have made a better movie than the formula script we have here?

    As with all big movies these days, you have the movie proper and you have the beginning sequence. Studios (meaning financiers) take these very seriously and bring in a separate creative team, usually uncredited. This opening is far, far better than the movie itself. It has a whole different feel, obviously a different director and cinematographer. Obviously edited by a different crew.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
  • 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
  • The 1950s was an important period for the popular music that was being created in this country. It was the decade that brought forth the likes of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, June Carter, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan and the rest of those innovators that sent the popular music of that era to the stratosphere. The music was created by poor rural people that grew up hearing the blues and gospel music in church and at home. The white music stars stole shamelessly from the black artists they admired, but because of the racial climate in the land, they had no chance to make it as big as the white performers.

    Johnny Cash was an important figure that came out of that time. As portrayed in "Walk the Line", the biographic picture created by its director, James Mangold, and his collaborator, Gill Dennis, they present us an aspect of the man as he was starting in the music business as he goes from poverty and tragedy, early in life, to become one of the most influential exponents of the music that came out of Memphis in the fifties.

    The film showcases Johnny Cash and his involvement with June Carter, a figure that was legendary in her own right, and through her family which was involved in music. The film shows a man who had the talent, the charisma and the good looks to make it big in the music world with his own material. The film concentrates in the life of Mr. Cash and Ms. Carter prior to their marriage as their lives interconnected with one another because they traveled in the same circuit and usually paired in a lot of those venues. Theirs was a relationship that started on a friendly basis until Johnny messes his life and his marriage to the patient Vivian because he falls in love with June. On the other hand, June didn't want to get involved with a married man and was battling her own demons.

    The best excuse for seeing the film is the terrific performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, who, as Johnny and June, make this film come alive and make the viewer enter their world. Both actors do some of the best work in the movie. In fact, it was a surprise as how well these two dissimilar actors blend so well together, no mean feat for director Mangold.

    The film offers some of the best songs associated with Johnny Cash. The best part, and the wisest decision for the movie makers, was to let Mr. Phoenix sing the classic songs in his own way. Joaquin Phoenix, who has a good singing voice, also bears an uncanny resemblance with Mr. Cash. Reese Witherspoon makes a splash playing and singing songs that Ms. Carter made famous, although she was eclipsed by the stronger personality of Mr. Cash.

    The film will not disappoint thanks to the great treatment James Mangold gave the film.
  • agricola6412 February 2006
    i just had a 3 hour movie inflicted on me - called "walk the line" .. a johnny cash biopic ..

    while really well photographed, well acted and competently sung, after three hours you get up and leave the cinema, thinking: "there IS something missing here"

    this movie leaves you without ANY emotional involvement - NONE whatsoever ... thats what is missing here ...

    even if had just filmed the encyclopedia entry on johnny cash this would have had more emotional impact

    so - unless your a die-hard, dyed in the wool, 100% hardcore johnny cash fan - don t walk the line

    this is a showcase for the fact that it is not enough to have good actors - you also need a good story ..
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