Somehow this film snuck up on me. Surprising considering someone like Gwenyth Paltrow is in it. I mean, I knew the basic premise of the film and its story about a fallen from graces country singer trying to make a comeback, but the depth of it kinda shocked me. Based on a screenplay written by director Shana Feste (The Greatest), Country Strong packs a punch.
Country singer-songwriter Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund – Tron: Legacy, Troy) is passionate about his music. A talented performer he just needs a break or someone to take a chance on him. While working in a rehab institution he meets just that person.
Kelly Canter (Gwenyth Paltrow – Shakespeare in Love, Se7en) has fallen just about as far as a former star can fall. She was once country music’s darling and now she is a pariah. In rehab for a drinking problem, she meets Beau and music returns to her. Despite the fact that Kelly is married to James (Tim McGraw – The Blind Side, Friday Night Lights), her husband and manager, she and Beau embark on an affair.
When it is time for Kelly to leave rehab and go back on the road, Beau is not sure she is ready. James is and he wins out. Kelly does convince James that Beau should come on the road with them as her opening act. James has found former beauty pageant queen Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester – from television’s Gossip Girl), who he wants to be Kelly’s opening act. They agree to allow both to open though Kelly is not thrilled about a pretty younger singer being on the road with them.
Is Kelly ready for the pressures of being a country singer again? Will her fans take her back? Will Kelly and James’s marriage last? All these questions and more are out on the table and the answer is anyone’s guess.
Whether you like country music or not this film is hard not to like. It is too long at almost 2 hours, but that is small potatoes when you consider what it gives the viewer. A sad look at addiction and the pull of fame. How sad it was is what surprised me. The trailers had set the film up as a triumphant return from the bottom of a bottle by a country songstress and that is not a clear picture of the film. The film does let its characters off the hook that easily. Or at all for that matter. All four lead characters – Kelly, Beau, James, and Chiles – are shown to be flawed. There is no good guy here. It is realistic and raw at times. Don’t go into it expecting a payoff at the end as you will be disappointed.
The critics were pretty harsh on the film. Not sure why. It does have its flaws, but still is moving and enjoyable.
-“Shake That Thing” Extended Performance
-“Country Strong” by Gwenyth Paltrow – Music Video
-“A Little Bit Stronger” by Sara Evans – Music Video
-Country Strong Soundtrack
-Previews of How Do You Know, Burlesque, Soulsurfer, The Tourist, and Bloodworth