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Walk the Line

Genre: Drama/Biography
Rated: R
Directed by

Released by: 20th Century Fox

In Short: This wonderfully realized biography of singer-songwriter Johnny Cash follows his early life, rise to stardom, and romance with June Carter, and is sure to be on the short list for Best Picture Oscar glory.

Sublime "Line"
Johnny Cash and June Carter Gloriously Live Again
By Jenny Peters

"Walk the Line" is a great film. A tumultuous, fast-paced ride through the first half of Johnny Cash's legendary life, this is a movie to love on many levels. Much like last year's "Ray," the film is an unflinching look at how Cash's life started out unhappily, soared to great heights and was almost shattered by his addiction to drugs (in his case, amphetamines). And, as with "Ray," in "Walk the Line" the actor who takes on the challenge of bringing an American musical icon to life just nails it. Joaquin Phoenix actually takes it one notch higher than Jamie Foxx did as Ray Charles, however, for Phoenix not only seems to channel the essence of Johnny Cash, he also sings all the songs that made Cash so famous. It's a stunning performance, and one that is bound to win him at least a Best Oscar nomination, if not a win.

Unlike "Ray," this film is a two-hander, for the story of Johnny Cash cannot be told without his lifelong love, June Carter, as an integral element. Actress Reese Witherspoon—quite changed as a brunette instead of her usual blonde—also gives the performance of a lifetime as the perky country singer whose life is irrevocably changed when she meets the Man in Black. She, too, sings all of Carter's music herself, and will undoubtedly have shelves filled with awards by the time the Oscars roll around.

The Cash-Carter story isn't always a pretty one, and that is exactly what makes this such a compelling film. It took them a long time to finally end up as a couple, as both were married to other people when they met, touring the South with the likes of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins (all characters in the film). That, plus Johnny's personal demons that drove him to drugs kept them at arm's length for a very long time, while June did her best to deny the obvious chemistry that existed between them from the moment they met.

Writer-director James Mangold has deftly blended the couple's intensely personal story with many moments of top-notch musical sequences. He's created a film that will undoubtedly become a classic, and that may just take the "Walk" to the podium when the Best Picture Academy Award is handed out. Don't miss it.

(Published: 11/17/05)

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