Cathy Nugent reviews Walk the Line
Young American musician fulfils his goal and becomes a successful “country” recording artist. He turns to pills to cope. He is saved by the love of a good woman. Then he finds God again. Sounds pretty cheesy.
But that’s how Walk the Line tells the story of Johnny Cash. Given that Cash’s musical career spanned five decades, and given that Cash was such a complex mix of a man, and led such a turbulent life, this is bound to be a big disappointment to the really serious Johnny Cash fan.
But given that I am not a really serious Johnny Cash fan (just a little bit of a one), I found the central performance of Joaquin Phoenix as Cash quite enough to sustain my interest in the film and the story it told. Phoenix’s performance was completely compelling, conveying by turn the reserve and the passion of Cash, his audacity and his vulnerability. Okay, the love story which is the heart of the film — between Cash and fellow country-star June Carter whom he married in 1967 — may be not what the Cash fan most wants to see. On the other hand it may be pretty close to the story Cash and Carter wanted to tell, the story that was most important to them.
There is a lot more to say about Cash. His affiliation with the have nots in American society, the jail-birds and the native Americans is only partially touched on in this film. His unique musical style and way of blending musical genres is only implied.
Yet that is a way of summing up Cash too, as Bruce Springsteen noted: “[Cash] took the social consciousness of folk music, the gravity and humour of country music and the rebellion of rock ‘n’ roll, and told all us young guys that not only was it all right to tear up those lines and boundaries, but it was important.”