Taking a cue from the above song (thus the title of the film), James Mangold, the director, certainly takes us in a slow walk while building up our confidence in seeing the transformation of Joaquin Phoenix becoming Mr. Man In Black.
It was a gradual process of seeing Phoenix playing himself in earlier scenes, as if his dashing look is on loan for modeling the period costume. Not until the scene at a verandah where he belted tunes for the first time, we are now taken to a belief that Phoenix has finally inhibited the soul of Johnny Cash in Walk The Line. And of course, the pitch perfect note is in synch with a man being at his fullest with a woman on his side. For Johnny’s life, there was June Carter. For Phoenix’s impressive tour-de-force performance, it can only be matched by Reese Witherspoon’s equally convincing portrayal of June.
And for the latter, it was apparent so much on the screen that Witherspoon injects her own warm personality in bringing out the empathy towards the character that we do not mind watching June with a goody-shoe persona a la Witherspoon herself. Alas, June is given a full of life when she sparks the screen with her determination that is far cry from any of Witherspoon’s previous roles where strong willed acts were often imbued with cheekiness, either in Legally Blonde series or Sweet Home Alabama. Seeing Witherspoon in every turn as the country star gives pulsating sensation to the film, in which such a jolt is needed to make the film energetic enough, at least true to the sense of the genre it owes itself to.
An Oscar gold is only a moment away to hold.