×

TV Review: ‘Ring of Fire’

Jewel hits the right notes as June Carter Cash, but dutiful biopic doesn't quite carry a tune

With:
Jewel, Matt Ross, Frances Conroy, John Doe

For those who didn’t find “Walk the Line” a sufficient exploration of the Johnny Cash-June Carter made-in-country-heaven romance, Lifetime putties in the gaps with “Ring of Fire,” a handsome-looking TV movie that hits the relationship’s high notes without really carrying a tune. Jewel stars (and does her own singing, admirably) as June, but the source material — a biography written by the country star’s son, John Carter Cash — constrains the movie’s focus largely to mom telling drug-abusing dad, “I won’t watch you die.” Nevertheless, sibling History scored with “Hatfields & McCoys” over Memorial Day 2012, and “Fire” should ignite its own lesser spark.

Directed by Allison Anders and adapted by Richard Friedenberg, “Ring of Fire” opens with June’s childhood stardom as part of a singing family led by her uncle (X’s John Doe) and mom (Frances Conroy). She’s already moved on to a solo career and survived a marriage to a cheatin’ singer by the time she gets hired to tour with Cash (“Big Love’s” Matt Ross), whose obvious chemistry with her is offset by the fact he’s a “dope fiend,” as she later describes him.

There is, naturally, a lot of music, including the title song that Carter Cash wrote to commemorate her tumultuous relationship with the man in black. Still, the story essentially just careens from one bout of Johnny falling off the wagon to the next, until a stint in the Betty Ford Center finally compels (or enables) the saintly June to come to grips with her own anger about his lapses.

Jewel and Ross are convincing as the central couple, playing them over an extended span. A particularly good scene has her trying to cover for him as he drunkenly flubs his way through a duet.

Admittedly, women standing by flawed men are a Lifetime-movie staple, and playing to the country/Southern audience has proved to be a successful strategy for cable, birthing its own programming subgenre (mostly in a reality vein).

Still, the structure of the movie compels the two to operate without much in the way of backup singers, and the story casts June as such a noble, one-dimensional spirit, it doesn’t so much end as simply run out the clock.

That said, some will no doubt be satisfied just to soak in the atmosphere and the music, and besides, it’s been eight years since “Walk the Line.” And as Cash song titles tailored to romance-oriented biopics go, at least this one beats “Folsom Prison Blues” or “A Boy Named Sue.”

TV Review: 'Ring of Fire'

(Movie; Lifetime, Mon. May 27, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Georgia by Asylum Entertaiment.

Crew: Executive producers, Jonathan Koch, Steven Michaels; co-executive producer, Dara Cohen; producer, Damian Ganczewski; director, Allison Anders; writer, Richard Friedenberg; based on the book by John Carter Cash; camera, Joseph E. Gallagher; production designer, Garreth Stover; editors, Chris Figler, Aaron Rottinghaus; music, Anton Sanko; music supervisor, Marianne Goode; casting, Shana Landsburg. 120 MIN.

Cast: Jewel, Matt Ross, Frances Conroy, John Doe

More TV

  • TV Ratings: 'Watchmen' Premiere Draws 1.5

    TV Ratings: 'Watchmen' Premiere Draws 1.5 Million Viewers

    Who will watch the Watchmen? Turns out 1.5 million people, that’s who. The debut of the highly anticipated HBO series delivered that many sets of eyeballs across all the premium cabler’s platforms on Sunday night. For comparison, Sunday’s premiere was up 21% in linear on last week’s “Succession” season finale, and up 20% from the [...]

  • Variety Sundance Portrait Studio

    Melanie Lynskey Joins Showtime Pilot 'Yellowjackets' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Melanie Lynskey has been cast in one of the main roles of the Showtime ensemble drama pilot “Yellowjackets,” Variety has learned exclusively. The project tells the story of a team of talented high school girls soccer players who survive a plane crash deep in the Ontario wilderness. The series chronicles their descent from a complicated [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Writers Guild Boosting Efforts in Project Development Amid Agency Standoff

    The Writers Guild of America, locked in a six-month standoff with major talent agencies, has announced that it’s boosting efforts at gathering TV, streaming and film project development data to help members find new employment opportunities. The WGA made the disclosure in a message to members on Monday. The guild directed its 15,000 members to fire [...]

  • Amy Poehler Jessica Goldberg

    Amy Poehler, Jessica Goldberg Team for 'The Mother-in-Law' Put Pilot at NBC

    Jessica Goldberg is set to write a drama with a put pilot order at NBC that Amy Poehler will executive produce. The project is titled “The Mother-in-Law,” based on the novel of the same name by Sally Hepworth. It is described as a thriller centered around a woman’s complicated relationship with her husband’s family that [...]

  • Beau Willimon Hulu The First

    Beau Willimon, Katie Cappiello to Produce 'Slut' Series Adaptation at Netflix

    Playwright Katie Cappiello is teaming with “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon to bring an adaptation of her 2013 play “Slut” to the small screen. The show, titled “Grand Army,” is set up at Netflix with Odessa A’zion set to lead the cast. “Grand Army” follows five students at the largest public high school in [...]

  • How 'Catherine the Great,' 'Chernobyl' Challenge

    How 'Catherine the Great,' 'Chernobyl' Challenge the Hollywood Script on Russia

    Hollywood loves a good baddie, and for the last 50 or so years, a large proportion of those villains have been Russian. Take Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who killed Apollo Creed in the ring in “Rocky IV,” or Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman), who hijacked the President’s plane in “Air Force One,” or more recently the [...]

  • HBO Max Orders 'Crazy Rich Asians'-Style

    HBO Max Orders 'Crazy Rich Asians'-Style Docuseries 'The Ho's'

    HBO Max is continuing its content push with an order for a “Crazy Rich Asians” inspired docuseries. Titled “The Ho’s,” the eight-episode half-hour series hails from Lionsgate TV and plunges viewers into the over-the-top world of the Ho’s, a Vietnamese immigrant family who built a multi-million dollar bank, a real estate development company and a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content