Friday, January 11, 2008

Walk the Line (2005)

"My problem is that it's 2 A.M. My problem is I'm asleep. I'm on a tour bus with eight stinkin' men. Rule number one: Don't propose to a girl on a bus, you got that? Rule number two: Don't tell her it's because you had a bad dream."
- June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) to Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix)

I’m not a fan of fictionalized film biographies. I’m of the belief that a biography is better served by a well-crafted documentary. But Walk the Line is no ordinary biography. Country singer Johnny Cash chose Joaquin Phoenix for this role, and Cash was right: it’s difficult to imagine anyone doing a better job at portraying him. Phoenix is excellent, easily handling Cash’s quiet turmoil and confusion, but also able to notch it up into pill-popping angry star mode where required. He even pulls a sink out of the wall in one scene, adding his own unscripted touch. As good as Phoenix is, Reese Witherspoon (as June Carter) is even better. Witherspoon plays an extremely complex character and brings every bit of the emotion to the role (deservedly, she won the 2006 Oscar for Best Actress). And of course they both do their own amazing singing (after six months of vocal lessons). The supporting cast is also good, with a special mention to Robert Patrick as Cash’s cold father. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of a biographical film. Rating: 3.5 of 4

"Johnny Cash sang like he meant business...Walk the Line, with its dead-on performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, helps you understand that quality."
- Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

"Although the straightforward story feels virtually the same as every other musician of the period, it comes to life in two awards-worthy performances."
- Rich Cline (Shadows on the Wall)

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