GWENYTH PALTROW TIM MCGRAW GARRETT HEDLUND LEIGHTON MEESTER
I am a fan of country music. I think the songs in country music have richer meaning than any other form of music. So rarely do we see films about the second most profitable genre in music, and not since 2005’s award winning Walk the Line have we had a film dealing with the subject. After months of heavy promotion including Paltrow performing at the Country Music Awards, all the overexposure likely suggested a disappointing film. 34 year old writer/director Shana Feste plays this movie like a three decade old soap opera, missing every opportunity to show the outside world what country music has evolved into. Paltrow’s hyped performance is severely disappointing and even newcomer and Tron Legacy star Hedlund has more screen time.
At the beginning of a comeback tour, former country music superstar Kelly Canter (Paltrow) and her husband/producer (McGraw) hope to finally deliver a promising show now that Kelly has checked out of rehab. After falling off the stage drunk and losing her unborn child, the blond singer now cheats on her unaffectionate husband with honky-tonk newcomer Beau Hutton (Hedlund). Beau and pretty face Chiles Stanton (Meester) are the new opening act for Kelly and the dramatic entourage that has become her life. Beau sees a chance for a real career with his talent and female adoration but hates what fame has turned Kelly into.
It’s unfortunate that Feste can’t get a hold on modern country; she mentions Carrie Underwood in the film, but all of the characters are pulled from a time long ago. There are so many hook ups in the films its confusing to know who is with whom. Feste writes with clichés in mind and, after all the whining Paltrow’s Kelly does in the floor, in the closet and in the dressing room, we start to wonder if this is a film about country music or Lindsey Lohan. Paltrow returns to the type of character that ruined her career in the first place; Kelly Canter is very similar to her overly emotional, weak role as Marge in The Talented Mr. Ripley. While Paltrow’s voice is one of the very few positive things about the movie, we don’t get to hear it until the last ten minutes of the film, as if it would suddenly make the rest of the movie worth it.
The inexperience of Feste as a director and writer certainly plays to the movie's detriment; she is a step in the wrong direction for female directors who are trying so hard to prove they are a force to be reckoned with. The moral of the story that she so desperately wants to paint a picture of is the struggle between fame and love in country music, but we look around and see so many happily married country music couples that it reinforces the point that Feste doesn’t get it. Country Strong is catastrophically predictable and has one too many cheesy lines to mention.
Final Thought – Like a country music version of Lindsay Lohan’s life.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael B. Woody.