Walk the Line

Rated 2.0

Director James Mangold, co-writing the script with Gill Dennis, recounts the careers and courtship of Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and his second wife, June Carter (Reese Witherspoon), as adapted from two of Cash’s autobiographical books. Phoenix and Witherspoon do their own singing, and they can’t be faulted; their acting is (expectedly) excellent, but their singing is (unexpectedly) even better—and they don’t do nearly enough of it. The movie breaks the cardinal rule of singer biopics: It’s supposed to be about the music. Instead, things bog down in long stretches of turgid pill-popping soap opera, ignoring all but a handful of the hundreds of songs Johnny and June recorded. The best scene comes early, when Johnny auditions for legendary producer Sam Phillips (an excellent cameo by Dallas Roberts).