Release Date: November 18th, 2005 by Twentieth Century Fox.
The Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Dallas Roberts, Dan John Miller, Larry Bagby, Shelby Lynn, Tyler Hilton.
Directed by James Mangold.
BASIC PREMISE: Johnny Cash (Phoenix) rises to stardom while dealing with his love life and drug addiction. Based on a true story.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Joaquin Phoenix gives his first Oscar-worthy, performance as Johnny Cash. Just like Jamie Foxx did in Ray, Phoenix transforms into his role so that you forget that you’re watching an actor playing a musician. From the early scenes on the farm with Cash as a young boy to the scenes inside the recording studio when he’s older, you easily become immersed in his life and care about him. Vivian (Lyne), his wife, loves him but doesn’t support or understand his passion for singing, especially because, at first, it doesn’t put any money on the table for their own family and home. When Cash approaches his first record producer, Cash hassles him for an audition. Although he does end up recording his first album, we don’t get to actually watch him seal deal the deal with the producer. On the road to stardom, he meets June Carter (Witherspoon) who he had a huge boyhood crush on. They have more chemistry together than him and his wife whom he left at home. Witherspoon makes June into a lively and charming character. In a very risky choice, Witherspoon and Joaquin both sing with their own voices, but, surprisingly, the results are nothing short of amazing. The most entertaining scenes are when they flirt back and forth while singing a duet. The script slightly overdoes Cash’s drug addiction with scene after scene of him acting insane and self-degrading. Also, the dinner scene with him and June’s parents seems contrived a bit. Joaquin’s bravura performance makes the rest of the film more engaging and much more realistic.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Johnny Cash certainly leads a difficult life as he battles drug addiction. He has the courage to keep on singing, but when it comes to facing reality, that’s a whole other matter. Fortunately, June Carter comes to his rescue and shows him tender, loving care whenever he’s down—especially during the heartbreaking third-act.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: At times, the plot feels contrived and clichéd.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
THE BOTTOM LINE: Two terrific performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon along with great music save this film from drowning with its slightly clichéd and contrived script.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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