James Mangold's quality biopic about the early life, initial success and the demons that haunted and drove country singer Johnny Cash is an essential must-see. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as his second wife June Carter, this remarkable film rightly gained a number of Oscar nominations, and Witherspoon deservedly won Best Oscar for her support role.
The death of his older brother left J R Cash with a lifelong sense of guilt. Bible-reading Jack was always the boy tipped as a star, not J R. Even their hard-mouthed father lamented the loss, saying cruelly that the Devil "took the wrong son". The result was a man who drifted through the airforce and failed in a succession of dreary jobs before he found his niche as country singer Johnny Cash. And his childhood gave him his stage persona, as the Man in Black. "You can't wear black," whined his first wife Vivian. "It looks like you're going to a funeral." "Maybe I am," growled Cash...
The country singer - who died before production began on the film - reportedly chose Phoenix to play himself after seeing his performances as Commodus in Gladiator. It was an inspired choice. And Witherspoon matches Phoenix all the way, showing spirit and grit as June Carter, the perky country star who recognises Cash's demons but can't resist him forever.