Sunday, February 12, 2006

Walk the Line

Year: 2005
Dir: James Mangold
Screenplay: Gill Dennis, James Mangold

Stars: JOAQUIN PHOENIX, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patrick, Ridge Canipe, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dallas Roberts, Dan John Miller, Waylon Payne, Tyler Hilton, Shooter Jennings, Johnathan Rice, Johnny Holiday.

When I read that Joaquin Phoenix was lined up to play country music legend Johnny Cash I was stunned. To my mind he didn’t look the part or sound much like the Man in Black. There had to be some mistake. At least that’s what I thought, until I saw Walk the Line.

The screenplay is based on Cash’s autobiographies, and was co-written by director James Mangold. Here we get another peak behind the curtain. We get to see those true monsters of rock and roll, booze, drugs, the womanising, and isolation.

Pasted on the collage of rock and roll history, like the biopics that have gone before, this story follows the usual line, from cotton-picking hard times to success, followed by stardom and all its pitfalls.

Here we see life through Cash’s eyes, the relationship with his father, an excellent performance by Robert Patrick, and Cash’s enduring love for June Carter, played with a whole lot of sass by Reese Witherspoon.

What is outstanding about Walk the Line is the transformation of Phoenix into Cash. It’s seamless yet so unexpected. The fact that his amazingly precise renditions of Cash’s songs have fooled die-hard fans, only adds further testimony to the quality of this picture.

Enthusiasts of the musical biopic will adore this film, and any fans of good drama will not be left untouched by this emotional tale of deliverance. Essentially, Walk the Line is about one mans journey, his struggle to balance doing the right thing and doing what he wants to do. It’s about failure, self-esteem and respect, and most of all love.

The beautiful cinematography and great performances, not to mention the faithful recreation of Sun Studios, plus fleeting glimpses of some other legends of the era, including Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Payne) giving us his take on it all, make this a worthy Oscar contender.

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