Phoenix delivers near-perfect performance

Anne Wrobel

Though most of the music people listen to today includes artists such as Gwen Stefani, Jay-Z, and the Black Eyed Peas, rarely ever does a young person think about the country music genre that today features top billers Faith Hill and Garth Brooks. Though country music has not been the most preferred music to listen to, it has become increasingly popular with the film release of “Walk the Line,” a biographical depiction of the early years of country singer Johnny Cash.

“Walk the Line” tells the story of Johnny Cash and his rise to fame and lack of stability with his love, June Carter. Joaquin Phoenix [“Inventing the Abbotts,” “To Die For”] takes on the role of the complicated country boy who rises to fame quickly but takes a quick fall with a drug abuse problem. Through his tough and stable times, Cash is completed with the love of his best friend and music confidant, June Carter played by Reese Witherspoon [“Legally Blonde,” “Cruel Intentions”].

The film follows Cash as an 8-year-old, living with his family in poverty, to his adolescent years in the service to his mid 30’s after claiming success with songs such as “Ring of Fire” and “Walk the Line.” Using their actual voices rather than lip synching to another performer, Phoenix and Witherspoon take the south by storm, singing in front of live audiences in places like Tennessee, Georgia, and even as far as Folsom Prison in California. The concert in Folsom Prison, which was recorded and released as a Johnny Cash album, was the highest selling record of 1963, outselling popular artists during that time such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan.

Taking us back into the country roots, Phoenix is a duplicate of the late Cash in this biographical portrayal. Though Cash was a legend in the country world, he suffered on the inside as a result of his newfound fame and turned to drugs to offer a temporary solution to his depression. In the film, his drug use is illustrated when Phoenix, as Cash, trashes hotel rooms and physically threatens his first wife.

To overcome his addiction, Carter is constantly by his side and Cash soon realizes that his life will not make sense without the love of his doting wife. Through their many years of friendship, Cash and Carter grew fond of one another and eventually fell in love which is portrayed in the film by the young stars.

“Walk the Line” is a must-see for any viewer interested in learning the roots of country music or for anyone who has loved it for years.

Our rating: Four stars (out of five)