|WALK THE LINE (2005)|
Dan John Miller
|"It ain't got nothing to do with believing in God, Mr. Cash, it has to do with believing in yourself."|
|Time: 136 mins.|
Won Academy Award for Best Actress. Nominations for Best Actor (Phoenix), Costume Design, Editing and Sound.
SYNOPSIS: A chronicle of country music legend Johnny Cash's life, from his early days on an Arkansas cotton farm to his rise to fame with Sun Records in Memphis, where he met the love of his life June Carter.
BOTTOM LINE: This could have been just another flick about a drug-addicted singer, but Phoenix, like Jamie Foxx did with RAY, truly captures the joys and pain of his true-life counterpart as his path to musical success forces him to confront his inner demons. He doesnít just imitate Cash, though his singing is spot-on, he becomes him, drawing you into his complicated and intense world, whether you want to go or not. Music is the only thing that makes him feel safe and happy and while heís performing heís on top of the world. Unfortunately, for those closest to him heís not capable of surviving in the real world without a lot of pharmaceutical help. Itís not until he meets June Carter (Witherspoon) that he begins to see joy in life. Both otherwise involved, they start off as just friends, but their connection is instant and true and it quickly evolves into something much deeper. Having made enough bad choices when it comes to men, June is not about to get involved with a married man, not to mention a drug addict.
She never gives up on him and is the only person in his life who refuses to deal with him when heís high. When he bottoms out, sheís the one who helps him get clean and from that moment on they become inseparable. Like real life, even for famous people, the path to true love is rarely easy and they leave quite a bit of emotional wreckage in their wake. That they were happily married for three decades is a real testament to their commitment to one another. Phoenix and Witherspoon truly make their love connection a palpable force of nature that try as they might their characters' canít resist. As a young man, Cash was a selfish, scarred bastard, who shows great courage in allowing his many past transgressions to be played out for our enjoyment. Itís not exactly a flattering portrayal, but it shows how a person can overcome tragedy and self-doubt to become a decent, responsible person in the end. Everyone struggles and Cashís story is inspirational in that he fought for his soul and sanity, eventually taking responsibility for all the pain he caused.
This is a familiar tale of rock-n-roll redemption that is more compelling than most due to the performances of Phoenix and Witherspoon who prove why they are two of the best young actors working today. Itís themes arenít all that complex, however, the leads turn these music icons into living, breathing human beings who are flawed and flailing, just trying to find a little personal happiness in the world. Though I enjoyed her performance, I donít understand how Witherspoon won the Oscar for it. Itís a powerful ďsupportingĒ turn and the movie would be lost without it, yet she didnít do anything super special, but be good at her job. Phoenix is the heart of the film and heíll break yours. His big brown eyes just glow with intensity and sorrow. He walks the fine line between victim and cad with enough charm and melancholy that youíre on his side no matter how he behaves. Whether youíre familiar with Cash or not, this is a film that will leave you with a deeper understanding of the man and his music. It made me a fan and Iím sure Iím not the only one turned onto his songs by the experience. A fitting legacy for a music legend.