Joaquin Phoenix brings the legendary Man in Black, Johnny Cash to life in this biographical drama that is the next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of The Sound of Music.
The film gives an unflinching look at the life and times of the musician, from his start to his substance abuse to his relationship with June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). Witherspoon walked away with an Oscar for her performance, and she and Phoneix are nicely paired.
Phoenix brings a volatility to his performance that brings Cash’s unpredictability to life. Ginnifer Goodwin brings Cash’s long suffering wife, Vivian to life.
It’s a strongly crafted film, and while Phoenix may not always be my favourite performer his turn here as Cash feels spot on. And of course, there is the music. Cash wrote some amazing tunes, and both Phoenix and Witherspoon lend their vocals to their performances, bringing the songs to life.
At its heart, the film is a love story, in its way, as Cash wrestles with his demons, as well as his past, while falling deeper and deeper in love with June.
There is a look at the music scene of the 50s and on, but can you imagine a line up that included Cash, Presley, Lewis, Holly? That would have been a show to see.
Its pacing and storytelling keeps the film moving along, and it engages and entertains throughout, wowing with Witherspoon’s performance, and the incredible music, all overseen by T Bone Burnett.
The moments are great, and Mangold does a fine job of creating the world, and the story that puts Cash’s life on the screen. Cash’s persona could be gruff, but there’s a tenderness we see with him in his interactions with June, and it allows a glance at the man behind the suit.
My favourite sequence is the Folsom prison sequence, because, whether I should have or not, this was an album I listened to a lot as child, my parents had it, and it was just something that found it’s way onto my record player.
I even remember it ending up at one of my school’s show and tells, in this case it was a special presentation, when we were allowed to bring in a record we liked, and we would play a song from it.
I remember my dad telling me that not everyone may like it, but I took it anyway, though I have no idea what track I played. And let’s be clear, I was only about nine or ten…
Imagine bringing that in at that age!
I quite liked this film, and it served as a very enjoyable last recommendation for my screening of The Sound of Music. I move back to the Thriller genre next!