By Alice Flegel
A real legend is...well, the stuff of legends. But much harder to reproduce on film, because of the depths of human expression that tend to get lost in the business of making it on time, on budget, and on a subject the public will "buy". Which means 2005's "Walk The Line" is that rarest of movies, one that dug deep into the story, put it up as it really unfolded, and managed to bag actors that could carry it off.
"Walk The Line" is the hard fighting/drinking/loving story of country icon, Johnny Cash and his love affair with wife June Carter. It lays the foundation for the movie's focus, and Cash's real life, by detailing his boyhood in Arkansas, the early death of a brother, and impulsive first marriage that ended in disaster. All of that contributes to the way Cash's life was already drifting when he sang for Sam Phillips of Sun Records, where he brushed shoulders with another newcomer, Elvis Presley. Chastised for offering a hymn, Joaquin Phoenix rips off a version of Folsom Prison Blues that snags him the prized contract, and sets his foot on a path that will lead him to depths he never dreamed of, and the woman who would pull him out of then, June Carter.
Both Phoenix, and Reese Witherspoon who plays June Carter, did their own vocals, which added immeasurably to the reality of their performances. Witherspoon at times was perhaps a tad too ebullient, but also managed to reach inside herself to pull out both the feminine side of Carter, and her fury at Cash's moral and physical deterioration as their relationship progressed from an initial backstage meeting to the final, enduring chapter written at the Folsom Prison concert.
Not strictly a love story, "Walk the Line" is nonetheless a sometimes moving, infuriating, and emotionally charged tale of two people both struggling towards the same goal- to be with each other.
Director: James Mangold
Producers: Alan C. Blomquist, James Keach, Cathy Konrad
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Ginnifer Goodwina