Walk The Line (2005)

DVD Cover (Twentieth Century Fox)
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Overall Rating 71%
Overall Rating
Ranked #675
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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 recorded alongside Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. --TMDb
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: December 4, 2005
As far as musical influences go, most modern musicians credit Johnny Cash as one of their greatest influences. As far as romances go, there might not be another to match the romance between Johnny Cash and June Carter. But, as far as interesting life stories go, there are plenty that are more exciting than the life story of Johnny Cash. He just wasn't that interesting. With "Ray", we watched a musical prodigy overcoming blindness, drug addiction, ego, and his own violent temper. In "Walk the Line", Johnny overcomes the death of his brother, his bout with methamphetamines, and an adulterous attraction to June Carter. But, for some reason, it's really not that exciting. Maybe it's because Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny Cash like a coward... a quiet and plainspoken singer who won't talk back to his father, can't make crucial decisions, and doesn't understand why someone like June Carter won't marry him. "Walk the Line" has been touted as one of the best films of the year and a likely Best Picture contender. I don't see why. Does this musical biopic do anything that "Ray", "La Bamba", or "Selena" didn't do? Does it cross some new borders, or break some new ground that I just missed? No. "Walk the Line" is a mediocre motion picture featuring phenomenal performances... nothing more.

"Welcome to the suck". I know - it's a tag-line for "Jarhead", but it applies to this film, as the lack of energy and pacing literally sucks all of the life out of an audience. Joaquin Phoenix ignites the screen as Johnny Cash, at least during the second half of the film. During the first act, he seems a little nervous in his own skin, like he can't believe he's actually playing Johnny Cash. As June Carter, Reese Witherspoon adds the only excitement in the film, turning in the best performance of her career and one of the best female performances of the year. She goes through a wide range of emotions as June that she handles with all the weight and heft that we have always known she has been capable of summoning. Robert Patrick, though only in a few scenes, also adds some fire as Johnny's stern and sometimes overly cold father. Patrick is the master of these kinds of roles and he helps drag the film out of Boresville to the best of his ability. One of the missed performances comes from pop star Tyler Hilton as Elvis. He sounds little like The King, looks little like The King, and comes off as if he is playing himself, rather than the God of Rock 'N' Roll. Golden Razzies, here this performance comes.

By the way I describe the film, it probably sounds like I hated it. To assume that would be incorrect. "Walk the Line" was a good film, but not a great one - certainly not as miraculous as most people are making it out. The problem lies in the subject matter. Johnny Cash did not lead a very interesting life. I am sure to Mr. John Doe Bupkiss somewhere out in Iowa, he lead a pretty amazing life, but compared to musicians like Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and Ray Charles... Johnny Cash seems like the Eyore of the music world. Phoenix and Witherspoon do, indeed, deliver performances worthy of Oscar consideration, and Witherspoon possibly even the win, but Phoenix winning a Best Actor award would be a shame. His performance is more imitation than anything else, and although he does it well, he is nowhere near the same caliber actor as Philip Seymour Hoffman, who completely embodied Truman Capote in "Capote". Phoenix should not win the award for the same reason Jim Carrey was not nominated for "Man On the Moon", because both performances were imitation rather than embodiment.

So, country music fans, you are probably going to love the hell out of this film. There's plenty of Johnny Cash music throughout the film, and even Phoenix singing he cannot take away from the mood. In fact, part of what makes Phoenix's performance better than average is that he sounds incredibly similar to Johnny Cash, especially towards the end of the film when he sings "Ring of Fire". "Walk the Line" is an overrated film that manages to entertain, but just not enough. I sat through two hours plus watching this film and didn't really care how things turned out for the Man In Black. He just didn't make me like him enough. "Walk the Line" is 2005's answer to "Ray", and it comes off more as a country music copy than anything fresh and new. And, as much as it pains me to say this, Joaquin Phoenix is certainly not Jamie Foxx. You'll laugh and cry in "Walk the Line", but you won't walk away with anything lasting.

Tristan #1: Tristan - added August 21, 2010 at 10:35pm
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this one. I expected it to be a real middle of the road film without much to offer, but I quite enjoyed it.

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