John R. Cash (played by Joaquin Phoenix), born in Arkansas, USA in the 1930’s, has grown up with the terrible trauma of his much loved older brother’s death casting a shadow over his family and his childhood. His father Ray (by Robert Patrick) is hard on him as hasn’t developed much in the way of skills, but he has a deep love for music. He joins the Air Force and is shipped off to Germany, where he buys his first guitar and starts to write music. When he returns he proposes to Vivian (by Ginnifer Goodwin), they marry and settle in Memphis, where he tries to support his family as a door to door salesman. One day, he gets a break with his band and cuts his first record at Sun Studios. He goes on tour, along with the beautiful June Carter (by Reese Witherspoon), who already has a blossoming career. The seed of performing and a passion for June is sparked inside Johnny and he just can’t get enough of the touring, the life on the road and of June. He spends more and more time away from home and develops a dependency on drugs. He becomes desperate and can’t live without drugs or June – but he finds solace in neither. He continues to perform in tours with Elvis Presley (by Tyler Hilton), Jerry Lee Lewis (by Waylon Payne) and Carl Perkins – and he persists in asking June to marry him, but she never agrees. On a road of total self-destruction, his career founders, along with his marriage and he is left destitute, his only companion his drug dealer. Eventually, things turn around thanks to the strength of people around him who love him – he manages to kick his habit and get back into his music. June agrees to tour with him once again and then she agrees to marry him – after he proposes to her one night in 1968, in front of their live audience, with perhaps their most famous songs, “Jackson” and “Ring of Fire” as their concert highlights. They continue to live, raise their family and perform together for several decades, then they die within months of each other in 2003.
This movie is fascinating. It explores the early life of John (Johnny) Cash well and demonstrates the deep love built through challenge and struggles between himself and June Carter Cash. They are matched very well together and each mimic the style of their characters with excellence – it is remarkable that they both actually do sing their parts on the soundtrack. If you enjoy the early music of Johnny Cash, right up to the time of the Folsom Prison concert, you’ll really enjoy this – there’s plenty of his music throughout the piece. Also, it is perhaps the best I have seen Reese Witherspoon. I understand that James Mangold directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Gill Dennis, basing it on two autobiographies written by Cash and in collaboration with the couple. In the 2006 Academy Awards (Oscar) presentations, Reese Witherspoon was awarded the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – she is excellent and the recognition from the award is very well deserved. Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for his excellent performance in this movie in the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – as it should be. Overall, the only thing is that it may be a little long, but still interesting to watch – it’s a good drama.
Made in 2005. Directed by James Mangold