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While growing up in the Great Depression era, Johnny Cash takes an interest in music and eventually moves out of his Arkansas town to join the air force in Germany. While there, he buys his first guitar and writes his own music, and proposes to Vivian. When they got married, they settled in Tennessee and with a daughter, he supported the family by being a salesman. He discovers a man who can pursue his dreams and ends up getting a record with the boys. Shortly after that, he was on a short tour, promoting his songs, and meets the already famous and beautiful June Carter. Then as they get on the long-term tours with June, the boys, and Jerry Lee Lewis, they have this unspoken relationship that grows. But when June leaves the tour because of his behavior, he was a drug addict. His marriage was also falling apart, and when he sees June years later at an awards show, he forces June to tour with them again, promising June to support her two kids and herself. While the tour goes on, the ... Written by
I've long thought that James Mangold was one of the most underrated American directors; while other acclaimed auteurs like Wes Anderson and David Gordon Green have made names for themselves by essentially repeating themselves with each film, Mangold has attracted considerably less attention for actually having the gall to show some range. Like the great directors of the Hollywood studio system, Mangold shows visual and narrative skill across a wide array of genres: character-driven crime (COPLAND); horror (IDENTITY); issue-oriented drama (GIRL INTERRUPTED), etc. What each of these films shares in common is a stunningly elegant and expressive visual style, an attention to character reminiscent of Renoir, and an economy of storytelling that would make Howard Hawks envious.
Now Mangold has delivered his masterpiece, and it's the best studio release I've seen so far this year. WALK THE LINE, Mangold's story of the relationship between Johnny Cash and June Carter, is deliriously romantic, exhiliratingly entertaining (as a musical it invites and earns comparison with the best of Vincente Minelli), and profoundly moving--all set to a spectacular soundtrack. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are both brilliant as Cash and Carter, but not only in the ways you would expect. Their most impressive achievement is to convincingly portray two people falling in love in a manner that's sincere and sweet but never cheaply sentimental. This is the most unabashedly romantic American movie since THE NOTEBOOK, but it's totally authentic and lacking in melodrama; the subtlety with which Mangold and his performers delineate the one step forward, two steps back nature of Cash and Carter's love affair is staggering. Phoenix is particularly brilliant, not only in the romantic scenes but in moments in which Cash discusses his brother's early death; in these scenes the major tragedies of both the character and the performer's lives merge in a way that is heartbreakingly real. And the movie gets across the intoxicating nature of creative collaboration between two people in love better than any film I've ever seen--perhaps no coincidence given that Mangold and his closest collaborator, producer Cathy Konrad, are married. I could (and will) go on about this movie for hours, but let's just say that it's the movie to beat for the rest of the year.
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