|James Mangold Director||previously directed Identity|
The story of legendary country musician Johnny Cash and his lifelong love, June Carter.
|Johnny Cash||book "Man in Black" and "Cash: The Autobiography"|
|Patrick Carr||book "Cash: The Autobiography"|
|Gill Dennis||written by|
|James Mangold||written by|
|Joaquin Phoenix||John R. Cash|
|Reese Witherspoon||June Carter|
|Ginnifer Goodwin||Vivian Cash|
|Robert Patrick||Ray Cash|
|Dallas Roberts||Sam Phillips|
|Dan John Miller||Luther Perkins|
|Larry Bagby||Marshall Grant|
|Shelby Lynne||Carrie Cash|
|Tyler Hilton||Elvis Presley|
|Waylon Payne||Jerry Lee Lewis|
|See Full Credits|
Cash was eventually discharged and married his girlfriend Vivian Liberto. In 1955 Cash and Vivian were relatively poor and Johnny tried to make financial ends meet when he worked as a door-to-door salesmen. On one particular route, Cash passed by a recording studio, which inspired him to form a gospel band in hopes of nailing a record deal. He gathered a group and auditioned for the owner of Sun Record Sam Philips. Mr. Philips interrupted Cash’s gospel song and asked him to play something he can, “feel.” Cash then decided to perform “Folsom Prison Blues” which landed him the record deal.
Cash started a tour with the Tennessee Two and along the way he met various artists including his future second wife June Carter. Cash immediately fell in love with June and spent an awful amount time with her. June divorced her first husband which motivated Cash to step in and win her over. June refused to let Cash get the best of her and Cash turned to drugs in response. His behavior became increasingly erratic during a performance, which separated them until 1964. Cash pursued June at an awards program despite Vivian’s objections. At the awards show Cash convinced June to tour with him again and was successful. Cash and June slept together after a performance in Las Vegas but when June woke up she noticed that Cash taking several pills. She regretted sleeping with him and had to reject him for the second time. Cash would then consume more pills and passes out later in the evening. June decided to throw away Cash’s drugs and wrote a song called, “Ring of Fire” which described her feelings for Cash and the turmoil he was putting himself through.
Cash moved to Nashville in 1966 after separating from Vivian and getting arrested for purchasing drugs in Mexico. He bought a large home hoping to reconcile with June and thankfully her mother convinces June to help Cash. June helped Cash detoxify for a long period of time but eventually he sobered up.
The last act of the film was the most meaningful because that is when he became aware that most of his fans were prisoners. He then decided to record an album inside Folsom Prison. Cash said that his prison experience helped him relate to fans. He performed in the prison and yet again jumped start his tour with June. Cash surprised June with a marriage proposal during an impromptu duet. She said yes after a few minutes of hesitation.
The film wrapped up with a touching ending of reconciliation between Johnny Cash and his father. The last sequence of the film showed Cash’s father play with his granddaughters. The film warps up full circle and leaves the audience uplifted. Audiences love happy endings and this particular film ended on a Hollywood choreographed “feel good” ending.
Certain critics were ravaged at the fact that the film was too formulaic and thus created a work of historical fiction rather than a biographical film. Critics such as Jayson Harsin believed that the film was too constrained by the Hollywood plot formula because the last twenty years of Johnny Cash’s life were left untouched. Harsin continues with the negative review and says that, “the reason he was considered the man in black [was because of] other more socio-politically controversial” factors. (Bright Lights Film Journal) Critics like Harsin were not satisfied with the fact that the director chose to emphasize the “love and loss formula” more so than the politically driven metamorphosis of the later years of Johnny Cash. A Hollywood executive understood that the general audience was not too inclined to watch a politically thematic melodrama. The movie was aiming for a 2005 release, which meant that it would have been risky move for 20 Century Fox to produce a film that targeted any political group. Another highly outspoken critic of the film comes from Johnny Cash’s daughter herself. Rosanne Cash was heavily critical of the film and described her experience of watching the film as, “Having a root canal without anesthetic. ” (The Observer) She continues, “The movie was painful. The three of them [in the film] were not recognizable to me as my parents in any way. Rosanne’s words were devastatingly harsh, however there is some grain of truth in her opinion.
Rosanne indirectly reaffirms the notion that Hollywood loves to make things beautiful. What if the locales and actors are already beautiful? Hollywood always finds a way to make the actors more visually pleasing and this type of movie magic is why people go to see the movies. They seek to escape reality for a few hours and dwell on the subject matter that lay in front of them. A film like Walk the Line of course takes itself a bit more serious then say your average Nicholas Cage film, however, that does not mean to horrendously sound off on a film because the actors portrayal of real people did not look one hundred percent the part. Only one Johnny Cash walked this earth however, most critics praised both Reese Witherspoon’s and Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayals of Jude and Johnny respectfully. Sure Witherspoon and Phoenix looked way too glimmered up when compared to the real life persons they were trying to portray but their behavior, movement, caricature, and voice shined through almost too perfectly. Legendary film critic Roger Egbert had this to say about Joaquin Phoenix’s singing:
“ Knowing Johnny Cash's albums more or less by heart, I closed my eyes to focus on the soundtrack and decided that, yes, that was the voice of Johnny Cash I was listening to. The closing credits make it clear it's Joaquin Phoenix doing the singing, and I was gob-smacked” (Chicago Sun-Times)
Joaquin Phoenix did such an amazing job at duplicating Johnny Cash’s vocal talents that he won a Grammy Award at the 49 Annual Grammy Awards for his work on the soundtrack. Clearly there had to be something that Rosanne Cash enjoyed about the films? Rosanne admits that the “scenes were recognizable, and the storyline.” Understandably her emotions got the best of her when she goes on to say, “The whole thing was fraught with sadness because they all had just died, and I had this resistance to seeing the screen version of my childhood.” (The Observer) The pain of her parent’s death left a sour note during her screening of the film and honestly who could blame her? Her brother John Carter Cash on the other hand, had a small role in the film and was also an executive producer. John was very vocal about having the filmmakers remove two scenes that were not flattering to their mother. (The Observer) The film was clearly taken seriously and driven with care. The true story of Johnny Cash cannot be summed up in a two-hour movie, but what appeared in the film was not fabricated. The fabrications come from the aesthetics such as Joaquin Phoenix looking overly handsome and Reese Witherspoon gorgeously electrifying the silver screen.
The music and performances were all choreographed with such great detail. Johnny Cash himself approved the casting of Joaquin Phoenix and once Phoenix realized he was cast for the part, he learned how to play guitar. The authenticity and attention to detail in the two autobiographies, “Man in Black” and “Cash: The Autobiography” is shown during the triumphant scene when Cash asks Jude to play a duet with him. The film is a roller coaster of emotions but has a touching ending that is not necessarily so in the autobiographies. The later twenty years of his life is left for interpretation for persons who choose to view the film adaptation of his life rather than the read the written form. The director wanted to tell the story that the general populous would find more interesting and riveting. Most people can relate to a love story, or a struggle for success, or the struggle to make amends with a certain relative. Indeed the plot was formulaic in the most Hollywood-esque biographical picture way but the story remains true and director Mangold, “has always been good at finding the bleak melodrama in taciturn souls.” (Richard Corliss) Walk the Line does little to shift the true legacy of Johnny Cash but does everything to propel his achievements to a modern audience. Cash’s accomplished so much for 1950s rock and roll and left behind a body of word that many aspiring artists ponder and study over. His decades as a representative of country music were shown but done so with humble beginnings.
The does not portray Johnny Cash as a larger than life figure, but a troubled figure. The film never completely loses faith in Johnny Cash because Cash was always willing to try and try again. He was rejected by June countless times and suffered depression through his drug addiction, but Cash was able to sober up as well as keep the love his life with him though thick and thin.
The film took large liberties with the love story between Cash and June but the audience needed something other than music to cheer him on. Walk the line formulates a wonderfully cohesive story based on the true event of the life of Johnny Cash. The film is whimsical when it needs to be, romantic when it needs to be, and depressing when it needs to be, but all of those were done and performed exceptionally well. Disgruntled critics like Jayson Harsin would have rather watched a two part “Ken Burns” style documentary because apparently they were not satisfied with the cleverly chosen focused structure of the narrative. The name Jonny Cash has been popularized and since the films release, more and more people are becoming increasingly aware of the “Man in Black.” The film garnered more attention to the family, Cash’s music and especially the legacy he left behind in the music industry. Walked the line from Arkansas indeed.
|review||You can't help nobody if you can't tell them the right story (4 out of 5)||BagronkeN|
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