Country Strong: Strong Performances Overshadowed By Strong Music

7 01 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester star in Country Strong, a country music infused drama. Here’s the breakdown:

Kelly Canter (Paltrow) is a country music superstar, on her way out of rehab. Her manager husband, James (McGraw), is eager to get her back on the road in an effort to boost her public image – not to mention her pocketbook. Along for the tour: Kelly’s boy-toy, Beau (Hedlund) and Carrie Underwood wannabe, Chiles (Meester). Can Kelly overcome her past (and her failing relationships) to pull off a successful comeback?

The Monkey: The actors were all top-notch and thoroughly convincing. I was a bit skeptical, not sure if I would be able to take Gwyneth, Garrett and Leighton seriously with their twanging drawls, but I was pleasantly surprised by all three, in particular Garrett and Leighton. The two had wonderful chemistry onscreen, and seeing them in more serious acting roles ensures they won’t be relegated to memories of TRON: Legacy and Gossip Girl (respectively).

The best part about Country Strong is the music. I’m not a country music fan, but the soundtrack and the numerous songs were impressive. It was nice to hear the actors sing themselves, and Gwyneth, Garrett and Leighton really shined during their on-stage singing scenes.

The Weasel: There was some buzz after the Golden Globe nominations were announced and Paltrow didn’t get a best actress nod for her role. While she did a good job, I’m not surprised she’s not being nominated. Unfortunately, the movie paints her character, Kelly, a bit too unfavorably, making it hard for audiences to connect with her and sympathize with her struggle. One of the few moments of true emotional connection was a wonderful scene between Kelly and a young boy, Travis, during a Make-A-Wish appearance. The scene was funny, touching and heart-felt – if only Country Strong could have held onto that tone throughout the movie.

The songs were wonderful, but the movie relied on them too heavily, turning much of the movie into a dramatic country music video.

A killer soundtrack and solid performances make Country Strong an enjoyable movie. Most definitely worthy of its Golden Globe nomination for Best Song and sure to be a contender for the same category come Oscar time.

3 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did you enjoy the music? Was Gwyneth overlooked by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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6 responses

7 01 2011
Carol H

Good review. I agree with your rating and thought the movie was above OK but not great.

7 01 2011
Dustin

Thanks for the comment! 🙂

12 01 2011
scarletsp1der

dustin, I am finishing my review on this one now and remembered the line you wrote about the scene between Kelly and the boy Travis. I felt the exact same way while I was watching that scene! I wish the movie had kept that feeling throughout as well.

13 01 2011
Dustin

Right?! Oh well – once again, us bloggers know what’s up! 🙂

14 04 2011
Rhonda

I was never a fan of Gwen P. I was so let down when I found out she was “trying” to be a country star in this movie. I just saw it last night and I have to admit.. I was blown away. She was a better actress than Natalie P in dark swan. I know I’m gonna get a lot of flack for that.. but really how much of a leap did Natalie have to do?? We all have a little devil in us in the the jealousy way Dark Swan had, but who can really play crazy/substance abuse/in love-longing for love as good as GP did in “Country Strong”? Her faced even morphed into 100% pain a gut wrenching scene she had with Tim McGraw..you could see the pain and hear it. She was overlooked in this film and I think coupled with her singing was her best work yet. I now am a big fan of hers and have gained much respect for her as an actress. The movie was sad and not butterflies and ice cream, but when does life ever go the way we planned. Thanks for a very powerful movie that makes you glad you chose family over that big singing career way back when.

14 04 2011
Dustin

Good comparison between Portman in ‘Black Swan’! I really enjoyed Gwyneth in this movie too. I’m glad it changed your mind about her! I’m liking her in her guest role on the TV show ‘Glee’ too 🙂

Thanks for the comment!

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