Walk the Line parents guide

Walk the Line Parent Guide

Overall B

Joaquin Phoenix walks the line as Johnny Cash in this biopic about the famous country singer. The script focuses on the pitfalls and pinnacles of the performer's career, including his turbulent temper, battle with addictions and relationship with June Carter (Reese Witherspoon).

Release date November 17, 2005

Violence B
Sexual Content C+
Profanity D+
Substance Use D+

Why is Walk the Line rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Walk the Line PG-13 for some language, thematic material and depiction of drug dependency.

Run Time: 136 minutes

Parent Movie Review

How far can an individual safely stray when portraying a legendary figure like The Man In Black? In Walk the Line, actor Joaquin Phoenix and director James Mangold appear to have found that indefinable balance between absolute impersonation and artistic license.

Based on Johnny Cash’s two autobiographies, the script begins with the singer’s turbulent young years that were blighted by an abusive upbringing on a poor cotton farm and culminates with an inciting 1968 concert for the inmates at Folsom Prison.

Having learned to sing at his mother’s knee during the long, hot hours of cotton picking, Johnny develops an early love for music and particularly religious hymns. But when his older brother (Lucas Till) is killed in a bloody accident, Johnny’s father (Robert Patrick) blames him. The mishap costs the young boy his father’s love and sets him on a long journey to find his own worth.

Following a military stint in Germany, Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) marries, begins a family and takes on the unsatisfying and discouraging work of a door-to-door salesman. During that time, he comes across a storefront studio where artists can cut their own record. He convinces two mechanic friends (Dan John Miller, Larry Bagby) to back him up at an audition. While the studio owner (Dallas Roberts) is initially unimpressed with their rendition of a gospel staple, his attitude changes when Johnny and his original “garage band” bring out their own material.

After the successful release of their first recording, “Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two” become part of a traveling tour that includes up-and-coming musicians like Elvis Presley (Tyler Hilton), Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Payne) and June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). However, the long road trips leave him unbelievably tired, and soon drugs and liquor become the panacea of choice. Eventually, his time away from his wife (Ginnifer Goodwin) and his budding relationship with June also take a toll on his personal life.

Wisely keeping some emotional distance, June intervenes on Johnny’s behalf after his divorce. While the film fails to adequately explain her reasons for doing so, it portrays her energetic efforts to help the singer through his self-imposed detox. In order to help him clean up, she, along with the help of her parents and two long-barreled rifles, stays off a drug dealer who comes peddling his pills at Johnny’s lakeside home.

Focusing on June’s redemptive actions, this tale of drug addiction and despair is saved from wallowing in a depressing melody. Witherspoon’s earnest performance paired with Phoenix’s powerful imitation of Cash’s musical style brings to screen the pitfalls as well as the pinnacles of Cash’s career.

While parents will want to consider the recurrent depictions of drug use before letting older teens see this film, there are some serious consequences shown for this dangerous behavior. Other concerns include numerous profanities (including an extreme expletive) and several scenes of implied sexual activity between unmarried adults.

Despite a troubled start and often-defiant attitude, Johnny is still able to find a sort of rebirth under June’s care. Hopefully, this portrayal of love will strike a chord with Cash’s fans.

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon. Running time: 136 minutes. Theatrical release November 17, 2005. Updated

Walk the Line
Rating & Content Info

Why is Walk the Line rated PG-13? Walk the Line is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some language, thematic material and depiction of drug dependency.

Throughout his life, Johnny is subject to the violent and critical outbursts of his disapproving father who blames his son for much of his own heartbreak. As a man, Johnny deals with life’s disappointments in much the same manner, throwing items and destroying property. His own young daughters witness a marital argument between their parents that turns physical. Often relying on profanities to express themselves, many of the characters also depend on alcohol and illegal drugs chased down by alcohol to deal with the endless road trips and the challenges of rising stardom. Although June helps rescue Johnny from his addictions, their relationship (and his on-tour infidelities) contribute to the demise of his first marriage.

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Walk the Line Parents' Guide

June has an ability to look beyond Johnny’s addiction and shortcomings. Because of that, how was she able to help him deal with his own destructive behavior? What do you think she sees in him? What role can strong friends play in helping a person overcome problems?

What parental opinions do both Johnny and June have to deal with in the film? How do those views affect the way they perceive themselves? How does each of them respond?

What challenges can accompany success? What are the less glamorous aspects of the music business?

Home Video

The most recent home video release of Walk the Line movie is February 2, 2010. Here are some details…

Walk the Line releases to DVD as a single disc (wide or full screen versions) or a two-disc Collector’s Edition. The first option provides a commentary by co-writer and director James Mangold, ten deleted scenes (with optional commentary by James Mangold) and the original theatrical trailer. If you spring the extra dollars for the Collector’s Edition, you get all that plus three extended music videos (starring Phoenix and Witherspoon singing Rock and Roll Ruby, Jackson, and Cocaine Blues), as well as three featurettes: Ring of Fire: The Passion of Johnny & June, The Man in Black: the Making-of Walk the Line and Folsom, Cash & The Comeback. Both choices come with audio tracks recorded in English (Dolby Digital 5.1and DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.1 Surround) and Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.1 Surround), with subtitles in English and Spanish.

Blu-ray Notes: Walk The Line

Release Date: 2 February 2010

Walk The Line releases on Blu-ray Disc with the following bonus materials:

- Directors Commentary by James Mangold

- More Man in Black: 10 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director James Mangold

- Extended Musical Sequences: Rock and Roll Ruby (Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, Reese Witherspoon as June Carter) and Cocaine Blues (Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash)

-Feaaturettes: Folsom - Cash and the Comeback, Celebrating the Man in Black: The Making of Walk the Line and Ring of Fire: The Passion of Johnny and June.

Related home video titles:

Illegal drugs and alcohol are also the bane of Ray Charles in the biopic film starring Jamie Foxx as Ray. Before buying a guitar and taking vocal lessons for his part as Johnny Cash, Joaquin Phoenix plays a firefighter in Ladder 49 and takes a part in the disturbing story of African genocide in Hotel Rwanda.

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