I knew nothing about Johnny Cash, literally, before watching Walk the Line. Seriously. I knew only one of his songs, “Ring of Fire,” because they used to play it all the time in college at a local bar where we played pool. Other than that-zilch.
That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie Walk the Line, and I’d say it was primarily because of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon’s performances. I don’t have any idea what Johnny Cash and June Carter looked like or sounded like at their prime, but I sure as heck knew it wasn’t Joaquin and Reese I watched on the screen. Those two actors actually became their characters, and it showed.
More impressive, they did their own singing. Joaquin did an admirable job, and Reese sounded like she could be a bona fide country star. Keeping in mind that they released a soundtrack using the actors’ actual voices, I think that tells you the quality of their work.
Again, I didn’t know anything about Cash before watching this, so I didn’t find anything particularly shocking. I think it was Jon Stewart who called Walk the Line the country version of Ray, and I think I can see how he’d make that comparison. Both films centered on the marriage and addiction problems of the protagonists.
All that being said, I really think Walk the Line may have deserved Best Picture. Its nomination was certainly warranted. I believe Joaquin Phoenix gave a top-notch performance, perhaps deserving the Oscar he didn’t get, and Reese Witherspoon deserved her Oscar and then some. Whether you’re a Johnny Cash fan or not, I highly recommend seeing this film.