Walk the Line          -            rated HOT! HOT! HOT!

There's been a certain amount if ill-informed criticism of this film as being a fairly standard bio-pic.  I disagree, as I disagreed with the same criticism levelled at Ray, the Ray Charles bio-pic (Taylor Hackford, 2004).

Here, the direction is a guge part of the way the film works.  James Mangold is constantly moving his camera, placing it in such a way to make his stars, Joachim Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon look and feel as much like the people they are playing as possible.  Without doing anything obvious, he makes Phoenix look tall, and shoots his profile in such a way as to make Phoenix the image of Cash in some scenes.

In addition, in concert performance scenes, the camera often lingers on-stage, behind the performers.  This creates a kind of intimacy,  helping us feel part of the performance, so we can make an emotional connection with the characters.

Some critics have complained that the structure of the film is the same as that of most other bio-pics (including Ray).  I say: "What's the problem?".  Many interesting lives have a similar arc (particularly in the entertainment business).  It goes like this:  poor but talented kid shows early promise, and somehow through a combination of sacrifice, persistence, and a bit of good luck, gets a chance.  Sometimes this comes to little, but eventually ther is success.  However success leads to a stumble and fall from grace (often drug or money-related).  Then finally some new element enters the life of our hero or heroine,  and this leads to redemption and true fulfillment.  That's the way it goes, and the temptation is to begin at the end and flash back to the beginning.  This flashback structure worked for Orson Welles & Citizen Kane, and it continues to work today.  It connects the character we know with the one we don't know.  It makes sense logically.  Mayber there's another way to do it, but its mere familiarity doesn't make it faulty.

The casting of this film is extremely astute.  You wouldn't have expected the 2 main stars to work so well in their roles, but they do.  The fact that they both sing to is astonishing, and although I would never buy the soundtrack that features Witherspoon and Phoenix singing, I was fascinated to hear how, in the film, the 2 stars gave the impression of the voices of Carter and cash.  Here, I think Phoenix is the more successful of the two.  But Witherspoon has a lovely country voice too.

The careful casting extends to the supporting players too.  The young Cash ( JR) and his elder brother Jack, and their father all look uncannily alike. 

Now a couple of scenes I loved: the scene when Sam Phillips finally auditions Johnny Cash is electrifying.  There's a very sweet scene in a cafe where Cash talks
to June about Jack.   Which brings me to the main thought I came away with after the film: after a difficult relationship with his father and the early loss of a brother, Johnny Cash wanted most of all a family of his own.  He got the wrong one at first, but eventually he got the chance to make a new one, and that was what saved him.