The Johnny Cash story -- at least that part of it told here -- is very familiar stuff. Childhood trauma, early financial struggle, sudden rise to stardom, drug abuse and the resulting crash, salvation in the hands of a good woman -- it's every episode of Behind the Music you've ever seen. And with Ray still so recent in our memories, the story seems even more stale.
Walk the Line is still worth seeing, though, for the lead performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter. Witherspoon does her best work here, capturing both June's professional insecurity -- she believes herself to be unworthy of her famous performing family -- and her private strength, as she refuses to give in to her love for Cash until he's proven himself worthy of that love.
Phoenix and Witherspoon do all of their own singing, and while they don't really sound like Cash and Carter, they get the style and the attitude right. Phoenix's accomplishment in lowering his voice an octave or so, to match Cash's booming bass, is especially impressive.
There are nice supporting performances from Ginnifer Goodwin as Cash's first wife, Vivian (some of Vivian's children have complained about the way she's portrayed in the movie) and Robert Patrick and Shelby Lynne as his parents.
Walk the Line is not as good a movie as Ray, but Phoenix's performance is better than Jamie Foxx's was, and Witherspoon's performance is magnificent.