Written by Fantasma el Rey
Walk The Line is more than the tale of true love and finding the one person who can save you, mostly from yourself, it’s the story of a young man on his way to becoming a legend. Johnny Cash and June Carter’s love for one another is now a well-known fact and for most folks this film brought that home while continuing to spread the music of an American original. The extended cut of Walk The Line adds about twenty minutes to the original release and moves well, shedding a bit more light on the young man in black. The film covers Johnny’s childhood in Dyess, Arkansas up to just after his legendary concert at Folsom prison. The additional scenes make the film more of a bio pic than a chic flick about said love and romance.
With these added scenes young Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) appears less pathetic. At times in the original he came across as some jerk with an obsession over Miss June Carter (Reese Witherspoon), kind of creepy. We get to see that some of Johnny’s moves were more calculated. Case in point the scene where John and June “bump” into each other at the awards show. In the theatrical version it looks like a random thing. Here, we find that it was Johnny’s doing that put them so close. Well, okay, he looks even creepier now I guess, but calculated, giving a better sense of the man. As it stands now we see that June probably stopped accepting his calls and without this meeting they may have never gotten back on the road.
Johnny seems more like a kid finding his way and getting lost for a while in a sea of pills and booze. The extended cut puts back more scenes of Johnny, making him more of the focus, yet losing none of the importance of June’s role in his life. We also see that music really was his life. The first cut made music appear to be merely a distraction from the absence of June. Even though many of his forlorn love tunes were written with her in mind, we now get to see him working on “I Still Miss Someone” while falling down the same hole fallen into by Hank Williams Sr. Bringing up another point that most folks forget, the fact that the Carter family saw Hank self-destruct practically in front of them. June was a little girl at the time and must have been deeply impacted by Hank’s fall. With that fact known, it’s clear that June alongside Ma and Pop Carter seized the chance to save this young man with an amazing, deep voice and gift for telling stories through his songs.
The new cut also paints the picture of this country boy’s first real look at the music business and how naive he was in those early days. Johnny is promoting his first single and breaks it on accident, he thinks it’s the only copy and is upset and believes he must record another record immediately. These additions present a more complete portrait of a young man moving from simple country boy and struggling family man to larger-than-life hero while continuing to expose the dark side of genius.
Disc two on the extended cut has more: more music complete sequences, more featurettes, and most importantly more true Cash info. In “The Cash Legacy” we see many people that Johnny influenced and inspired from rockers like Mike Ness (Social Distortion) and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) to fellow country outlaws Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. It is always good to see folks talk of the man that they knew and loved, casting more light on the subject with their interesting stories of the wild Cash.
More good DVD extras include the Johnny Cash jukebox, which adds more of the films musical sequences including those of Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, (who looks and sounds more like Buddy Holly) performing the Cash penned “You’re My Baby” and Elvis. The features on the actors provide a good look at the time and effort they put into becoming these music icons. It becomes clear why Johnny and June both approved Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon to represent them on the silver screen. As director James Mangold said somewhere during the film’s audio commentary, it’s about capturing the spirit of a person not simply giving an impersonation.
If you don’t have a copy of Walk The Line, then this is the version to have. It’s far superior to the first DVD release, providing more Johnny, which is always a good thing.