I'm not a big fan of musician biopics. Last year, when "Ray" garnered a Best Picture nomination, I was screaming protest. Great performances, decent movie, but hell no was it even close to Best Picture stature. Every single musician seems to have the same story: they get their big break, they have an up-and-down relationship with some woman and have to deal with drug addiction. Wow, how original.
So, when I saw "Walk the Line" was coming to theaters, it was clear what they were doing - trying to capitalize on the success of "Ray."
But "Walk the Line" is not "Ray." It has the exact same story, but it is a better film than "Ray" in almost every respect. Jamie Foxx deserved his Oscar - there's no doubt about it - and as with "Ray," acting is the story here. While Joaquin Phoenix can't compare to Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Capote," he is extraordinary. This is his best performance by far, and he has had some good ones (he still kicks ass in "Gladiator"). Honestly, I am too young to have any devotion to Johnny Cash, but I completely bought into his character.
Equaling him in every regard is Oscar-frontrunner Reese Witherspoon, who finally proves once and for all that she can be more than the cute-and-cuddly love interest in romantic comedies. Looking better than ever as a brunette, Witherspoon is perfect for the role and deserves props for taking herself to the next level. There are rumors that she'll be doing "Catwoman 2" in the near future, though...
Aside from the acting, "Walk the Line" is still a really good movie. James Mangold, who has some quality movies under his belt ("Cop Land" and "Girl, Interrupted" - we'll ignore "Kate & Leopold"), takes us through the life of Johnny Cash with ease. The pacing is perfect, and the whole movie looks good.
"Walk the Line" far exceeded expectations, and look for this one to cement the careers of Phoenix and Witherspoon for years to come.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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