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Walk the Line

September 12, 2010

Walk the Line (2005)
Director: James Mangold
Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patrick

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Synopsis: The musical genesis and affairs of the heart of music legend, Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix).

ReviewWalk the Line may not be particularly original or iconic, but it is a proficiently-told tale with director James Mangold clearly setting out to make an accessible and populist account of the first half of Johnny Cash’s life. In a character-driven biopic the performances are all-important, and Mangold is well-served by his two leads, with Reese Witherspoon in particular convincing and engaging as Cash’s eventual source of salvation, June Carter. Some of the Freudian posturing – father issues and the death of a brother – are too thinly sketched in to reflect credibly on Cash’s psychology, but Phoenix’s performance and his facial expressions, voice and deportment, impressionistically convey that baggage. One scene that sums up the strange but affecting chemistry between these two actors occurs in a diner after one of their first concerts, with Witherspoon’s tangible charisma and Phoenix’s tortured vulnerability, dovetailing beautifully to underline a simmering chemistry. Of course, Cash’s music itself plays a strong part in the film, not just through dramatic necessity (being a film about a musician), but also in effecting the mood of scenes and as a continuity tool in editing. (March 2006)

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