Reese Witherspoon got the Oscar but the whole cast is excellent. Every single person in this cast was not only perfectly cast but acted their collective asses off. They even did their own singing. My favorite was Waylon Payne as Jerry Lee Lewis. He does a much better job than Dennis Quaid did in Great Balls of Fire.
The sound track will stick in your head. I'm feeling a great need to own it and I don't have any money for non-essentials. I got a birthday in June y'all.
The sole and only problem I had was a big one for me. Going in I didn't know a whole lot about Johnny Cash's personal life so there was a lot I wasn't expecting and it was nice to not be spoiled for the twists and turns of the plot, however, the producers of this movie seemed to expect that the audience would know quite a lot about Cash and there were times that I was lost as to who, what, why, where, and especially when.
One minute Johnny's talking on the phone with his girlfriend, who I assume to be someone from back home he went to school with, then we jump to him waking up in bed with her and hear a baby crying in the background. Did she come to Germany? How much time has passed? How did they overcome her father's objections? I got enough from the scene that followed to figure out what was going on but it took reading the Wikipedia entry on Cash after I finished watching the movie to find out that Vivian was a girl he met in California in basic training and he married her after he was discharged. NOW their conversation about her daddy thinking he's crazy for wanting to marry her after only dating a month and her constant nagging for Johnny to take a job with her father and move to California makes sense.
I finally gave up on trying to figure out if a day or a year had passed between scenes and just sort of went with it. If you are very familiar with the subject you might not even notice this as you will automatically fill in the missing information. For someone who isn't, the movie is even more choppy and episodic than your average biopic.
They also expect you to identify who someone is by what song he or she is singing. For instance it took reading the credits to find out that Elvis was in the movie and watching the extras to find out where he appears.
I suspect that the movie is less than fair to Vivian. She is presented as a shrewish bitch for most of the film and there were scenes with her being softer and more understanding that were cut from the final release. Her portrayal is pretty much the way all men who cheat on their wives describe their wives to their mistresses. It also makes his choice of sweet, understanding, June who saves Johnny's life seem inevitable. Which according to the commentary track was exactly what the director was going for. Vivian's jealousy and anger at June is shown in a way to make her seem petty and vindictive instead of being the natural feelings of a woman who knows her husband is in love with another woman.
On the whole, I enjoyed the movie a lot. The performances much more than make up for the weaknesses in the script and the heavy handed direction. There is real chemistry between Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon and they made me believe their characters. Had me in tears a couple of times too thinking about the real people and what they went through. I strongly recommend seeing this if you haven't already.