Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Hello, I'm Johnny Cash'; 'Walk the Line' an Average Biopic with Exceptional Cast

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Hello, I'm Johnny Cash'; 'Walk the Line' an Average Biopic with Exceptional Cast

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT SOERGEL

The good news first: Watching Walk the Line, it's hard to imagine anyone other than Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon playing Johnny and June Carter Cash.

He's too slight of build, but he has that glower and that swagger, growling into the mike and swinging that big Martin guitar like a weapon. Pow! you're dead -- swooning teenage girls and hardened convicts, all of you. Phoenix does his own singing too, dropping his voice within hailing distance of Cash's subterranean rumble, and he isn't bad.

And nowhere is Phoenix better than in an early audition where his Cash sings Folsom Prison Blues to Elvis' producer, Sam Phillips. He's unsteady and slow at first, but you can't stop watching him as he speeds up, his backing band catching on to the song after he tells about shooting a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

Witherspoon, too, is fully convincing, with a sweet country twang and a earthy, warm sass -- this movie's a love story above all, and you can see why a man like Johnny Cash would spend decades with June Carter, and why he'd die just a few months after she went.

Witherspoon does her own singing too, and it's downright lovely. And just watch her in that red dress bouncing around on stage -- she's practically skipping -- while singing Juke Box Blues, and you'll wish you could see that instead of those pop stars on country music television these days.

It gets even better when the two of them share the mike on stage, harmonizing sweetly on It Ain't Me Babe, singing about being hotter than a pepper sprout in Jackson.

It's something close to magic, so it's a real shame that so much of the movie is so Mugglelike.

Walk the Line is similar to last year's Ray, from the tough, tragic beginnings, the exhilarating rise, the self-destructive fall and the rebound. But it isn't in Ray's class.

Ray put Jamie Foxx's Ray Charles out in the world, on the streets, in society, and watched as he pushed and pulled against it. …

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