Walk the Line is a 2005 biopic about Johnny Cash. Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny Cash, Reese Witherspoon plays June Carter, and James Mangold directs the film. The film follows the generic Hollywood biopic formula. It starts with the tragic childhood event that changes Johnny’s life forever, then on his early formative years as he hones his talent and finds his persona, then his breakout moment and how he adjusts to his celebrity, then the dark years, then the recovery and ultimate redemption, and then the movie ends on a happy note just before the credits roll. I remember liking this movie a lot when it was in theaters. Everybody was talking about it for weeks and weeks before I finally caved in and bought a ticket, watched it, and loved it. I bought two Johnny Cash albums on the way home. I knew who Cash was before the movie, but I didn’t really discover him until I saw it. This movie introduced me to Cash and I’ll be forever grateful for that, but I’ve realized with the passage of time that it’s a very flawed movie.
Joaquin Phoenix does a more than adequate job as Johnny Cash. He got all his mannerisms down pat, he even did his own singing. But I don’t want to hear Joaquin Phoenix singing. I want to hear Johnny Cash. Cash has a very distinct voice and Phoenix does not. If I’m watching a movie about Johnny Cash, I want to hear Johnny Cash, not karaoke covers. And Reese Witherspoon might be able to hit all the same notes as June Carter, but she sounds nothing like her at all. It’s kind of insulting to make a film about musicians and change the music.
The movie also insults the legend by completely ignoring half of his life. The movie ends with his engagement to June Carter. That was in 1968. Cash died in 2003 at the age of 71. That’s thirty-five years that they completely gloss over. What’s the point of making a movie about somebody’s life if you skip half of it? You could make a whole other movie about the stuff that they left out. They could make a fucking sequel. In fact, they should. Can we start crowdfunding Walk the Line II: Still Walking already?
Critically Rated at 7/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young