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Saturday, June 7, 2008


Helmer James Mangold hardly earns points by starting his Johnny Cash bio-pic with the hoariest of all structural cliches, the life-story flashback just before a career defining concert. But thanks to immensely likable perfs by Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon as Cash & June Carter, & a welcome lack of ‘push’ in depicting life crises on a human scale, you don’t feel pummeled by the usual over-hyped myth factor. The story arc -- hardscrabble youth, early struggles, finding your voice, finding tru-love – is the same damn story arc of a typical THIS IS YOUR LIFE episode or a Susan Hayworth ‘50 bio-pic. Phoenix can’t quite get the oddly sharp intonation that made Cash stand out amongst country music’s typical below-the-note wailing and Mangold isn’t exactly generous in detailing other characters (note the flavorless bandmates), only Waylon Malloy Payne makes a mark as a young & evil Jerry Lee Lewis. But it’s still a welcoming piece of work.

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