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Phoenix excels, Witherspoon excites in 'Line'

Nov. 18, 2005

by EMILY INGRAM, reporter

Walk the Line combines Johnny Cash's music and love life into a beautiful snapshot of the artist's world.

The movie explores Cash's long-term love of music and June Carter and how those loves influenced his marriage with Vivian Cash -- Cash's first wife.

The movie begins at Folsom Prison, where Cash performed a live show in 1968. From the prison, Cash flashes back to other periods of his life. Childhood, a fractured father/son relationship, his time in the Air Force and the start of his career are all briefly and quickly recapped as the movie pushes forward to its main focus -- the romance between Cash and Carter.

Courtesy photo
Joaquin Phoenix plays the role of Johnny Cash in 20th Century Fox's Walk the Line, a biographical movie about Cash's life and love.
The movie is an accurate portrayal of Johnny Cash's life and marriages.

Although some of the dialogue between Cash and Carter lags between songs, the two actors' performances redeem any lack of conversation. Joaquin Phoenix fills the screen with a presence of which the Man in Black would be proud.

Phoenix embodies Cash onstage as he sings classics like "Ring of Fire," "Walk the Line" and "Cry, Cry, Cry."

As June, Reese Witherspoon finds a good fit for her wit and talent. Her singing and country twang provide a bright spot contrast Cash's dark character.

Ginnifer Goodwin provides a strong portrayal of Cash's first wife, Vivian, and character actors add humor in the form of Elvis Presley, Carol Perkins, Waylon Jennings and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Producer James Mangold, who directed such films as Girl, Interrupted, Kate & Leopold and Identity, tastefully covers Cash's demons, drugs and alcohol, as well as his problems in love.

Walk the Line provides audiences with an authentic look at the life and loves of Johnny Cash.

Even those unfamiliar with Cash's life and music will be able to appreciate the love story and music of one of music's most beloved men.

Grade: A