Johnny Cash was one of the most prolific music artists of his time and to this day his unique style stands out. Known as the Man in Black, he had a sound and look unlike any other and his is a talent that has never been duplicated. But there was more to the man than just his music and not many people this day and age know what Cash went through. In 2005 when 20th Century Fox's Walk the Line was released it caught a lot of people's attention for just that very reason.
Directed by James Mangold (Girl Interrupted, 3:10 to Yuma), Walk the Line stars Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. To say that the chemistry between these two performers was anything less than stellar would be an understatement. Both were nominated for an Oscar for their performances here, and Reese actually took one home. The film also received multiple other nominations for Academy Awards as well. If you've never seen the movie then you should take that into consideration as a barometer for how good the film actually is.
Walk the Line begins in Folsom State Prison with Cash sitting in a storage room while his band keeps the tempo going for the lively crowd of inmates. He thumbs a table saw and the film flashes back to 1944 when Cash was 12 years old. Life was hard. His father didn't hide the fact that he liked his older brother Jack more than him and we frequently see the abuses he took. Making matters worse was that fact that 1944 was the year his brother died and it involved an accident with a table saw similar to the one Cash is thumbing in the opening.
Soon enough Walk the Line leaps forward by eight years and we get to see Cash in the Air Force stationed in Germany. He proposes to his old girlfriend Vivian Liberto (Jennifer Goodwin) and eventually moves back to America to settle down. It's clear that the normal sort of life isn't exactly what the doctor ordered for Cash. He has his head wrapped in music, can't hold down a job, and seems utterly miserable in his relationship with Vivian. That's when he spots a recording studio and is inspired to pull together something resembling a band and pitch their talent to the agent. After stumbling at first, he eventually succeeds and winds up on tour with Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and June Carter.
In this new world of music Cash begins to forget the troubles of the world at home. He starts to fall for June, gets hooked on pills thanks to Elvis, and has a total meltdown. It's a slow downward spiral that the film portrays perfectly and you really get the sense of hopelessness and agony as Cash hits rock-bottom. It takes a long time for things to turn around and a majority of time with the film is spent watching Cash trying to pick himself back up.