‘Country Strong‘ has a killer cast, some great songs, but the film delves into every country music stereotype that will make even the most diehard country music fan cringe.
Director/writer Shana Feste got an amazing cast to headline her ‘Country Strong‘ movie, but if you’re going to make a behind the scene country music film, just stuffing it with every stereotypical country music storyline isn’t enough. After watching ‘Country Strong’, I was left wondering if Feste was aware that there were some great great films out there already about the country music scene like ‘Nashville‘, ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter‘, ‘Crazy Heart‘, ‘Walk The Line’ just to name a few. While they had pick-up trucks, boozing and broads, these films also had characters you could root for who didn’t seem to go against what they were claiming to stand for. This is the type of film that will make people who hate country music feel even more justified, and that’s sad since this is a top notch cast doing the best they can with the one note roles they’re given.
Gwyneth Paltrow has already proven that she can sing and sing really well, but just when she’s about to let it all out in this film, Feste has made her collapse on stage so we never fully get to see her belt out like she did on ‘Glee‘. I was really excited to see Tim McGraw pair with Garret Hedlund again after ‘Friday Night Lights’, but it wasn’t near the same either. McGraw gets to play the self-pitying guy again, but it’s that one note role we’ve seen a thousand times before, and oddly enough, he doesn’t sing one song in this film. One of the top country stars today in a movie about country music, and he doesn’t sing? That’s pretty much the mentality of this entire film which just makes you shake your head many times.
Here’s just one example of something that seems more like it would’ve been in the bizarre comedy ‘Sordid Lives‘ rather than in a film starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Her character carries around a baby bird that she rescued from an abandoned nest. This is her symbolic substitute for the fetus she lost when a drunken fall onstage caused a miscarriage. All of us watching the film let out such a loud groan it wound up turning into the one funny moment of the film…unintentional that it was.
Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) and Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) provide the other surprises musical performances that perk up your interest slightly, but when the music ends, their characters are just as convoluted as the rest. Here’s a synopsis of the relationship that ensues that’s the structure of ‘Country Strong’.
Paltrow plays a country superstar in rehab whose manager-husband (McGraw) pulls her out of the facility far too early to begin a comeback. Somehow while in rehab she starts an affair with an up-and-coming singer (Hedlund) who works in the facility so we guess he’s the best person to be around while she’s on the road. Out of the blue, her husband signs him up as her opening act along with his new protege, a beauty queen-turned-singer (Meester). Again, does this sound like the type of film that used to be on the Country Music Network or Lifetime?
‘Country Strong’ is that film that should have had several more rewrites before even thinking about bringing this to the big screen. I’m still surprised that this amazing cast agreed to come a film with a script that was in such a bad state.
Best Movies Ever Rating: C-
‘Country Strong’ turns out to be quite weak even with a cast like this. This will come and go quickly and may even pick up a Razzy or two along the way. If they’d just taken out some of the stupid storylines and developed these characters better, it could’ve been a very fine film.
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