Walk the Line falls head first into the burning ring of fire that was Johnny Cash’s life. Like most great biopics, it walks a fine line between historical accuracy and cinematic flourish. I was never the biggest Johnny Cash expert, but I do love his classics like “Ring of Fire” and “I Walk the Line.” As well as his later more melancholy hits like “Hurt” or “The Man Comes Around.” The latter songs I only know thanks to Logan. Walk the Line is where director James Mangold first explored his appreciation for Johnny Cash. I learned so much about his often somber ups & downs that I was never aware of.
How he dealt with the tragic loss of his brother, fought for his father’s approval, and experienced substance abuse. Joaquin Phoenix nails a more subtle country accent, but sings with the exact brass-baritone of Cash. Just as authentic is Cash’s persistence at becoming a successful singer. He goes from gospel to country, becomes “The Man in Black” by pure happenstance, and does it all in Memphis, Tennessee. Since Cash became something of an outlaw, it only made sense to start the movie at the Folsom prison where he performed.
Just as important is the love story between Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter. Depicting a romance between a married man is tricky, but Ginnifer Goodwin is given just as much attention as Cash’s first wife Vivian. As their marriage falls apart, Johnny and June slowly grow closer. I didn’t know much about fellow country singer June Carter, but Reese Witherspoon absolutely deserved her Best Actress Oscar win. Phoenix should’ve won too, but there’s just something about June’s comedy hiding her inner struggles. Walk the Line honors multiple one-of-a-kind talents.