The last time we saw Gwyneth Paltrow burst into song on the big screen was in the 2000 film Duets, where she sang alongside Huey Lewis. Over a decade later she’s back, but she’s solo and taking on the role of a music superstar in the drama Country Strong. Written and directed by Shana Feste, the film chronicles the rise of an entertainer who hit rock bottom, and is trying to regain the trust and support of her fans and her husband.
Check out the review…
- Director: Shana Feste
- Screenwriter: Shana Feste
- Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Garrett Hedlund, Tim McGraw, Leighton Meester
- Cinematography By: John Bailey
- Original Music By: Michael Brook
Kelly Canter (Paltrow) is a successful country singer who’s sent to rehab after her addiction with alcohol causes her to collapse during a huge show. She goes through a stint at a facility but is released early at the request of her manager and husband James (McGraw). While a patient, Kelly developed a close friendship with her sponsor Beau (Hedlund) who happens to be an amazing singer. Beau becomes one of the opening acts on her comeback tour, alongside a young songstress named Chiles, who Kelly sees as an impending threat. Amidst their travels they’re forced to deal with addiction, love, triumph, and tragedy.
- Music: The writer/director went after some of country’s heaviest hitters when it came to producing songs for this film and it shows. Every one of the tracks could be real contemporary hits if given the chance. Not only that but all the actors have enough vocal talent to pull them off.
- Garrett Hedlund: A few weeks ago in my review for Tron Legacy, I stated that Hedlund is a decent actor but he wasn’t given decent material to work with in the film. Therefore his character came across as one dimensional and uninteresting. In Country Strong he’s the exact opposite. Paltrow may be the headliner but he’s the heart of this story. Beau is a simple guy who doesn’t get distracted by all the razzle dazzle the entertainment business has to offer. Hedlund did a great job of conveying that.
- Cliche Galore: Country Strong fails to find an original voice (pun intended) because every plot point, every struggle, and every problem thrown at the characters has been used and abused in other movies that cover the same topic. If you’ve seen Tender Mercies, Crazy Heart, The Coal Miner’s Daughter, or The Thing Called Love, you’ve seen this movie already.
- The Build Up: Without spoiling the final act of the film, a huge event occurs that effects all the major characters and it comes completely out of left field. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the desired effect because it doesn’t feel earned. The build up and tension isn’t there.
- The Message: “Fame and Love can’t live in the same place” is the message this film wants to bring across but it doesn’t quite accomplish it. It feels like it’s shoehorned in at the last minute, and the audience is supposed to be left pondering. It just doesn’t work out that way.
Country Strong is a mediocre take on something that we’ve all seen before but what it lacks in originality of plot, it makes up for in music.
Country Strong opens in theaters January 7.
Will you be seeing Country Strong this weekend?