Sarah and I had a great 3 day weekend in Las Vegas and part of the fun was seeing Country Strong starring Gwyneth Paltrow (Kelly Canter). I’m a big fan of her movies and I was looking forward to seeing a great performance in a movie that looked to be about the life and times of a professional female Country Music musician. I was right on what it was about. Unfortunately it’s a predictable storyline that starts out charming like a gift of everlon but ends up choking on its poor writing. It takes simple concepts and takes too much time and energy to relay what is already known and conveyed. There may be some minor spoilers ahead but I don’t give away much.
I like Tim Mcgraw’s character, James Canter, a lot. This is because he starts out a class “A” a-hole but in the conclusion of the film, I saw him a whole different way. He is Kelly’s husband and manager and when we think him a cheater, we find out he is just a tortured person trying to keep the show going on. Whereas the “Beau Hutton” character, played by Garrett Hedlund, starts out my favorite character, in the end I sort of despise him. We find out he is not Kelly’s AA sponsor and a really selfish guy in many ways. I’ll never believe sleeping with every woman who crosses ones path is a wise or acceptable move. Paltrow plays an excellent modern country singer haunted by her drug and alcohol addiction. She wants to restore her life after a devastating miscarriage and accidental overdose shrouded her public image. I won’t get into the end but really, has any of this plot so far struck you as incredibly original?
We saw the same theme of “fame is empty” in Rock Star (2001). Scene after scene we are shown how seeking fame is a foolish game. In the end, 2 characters find that out and drop out of show business. One has to wonder if these young talents would have been so forthright in the real world. Ultimately, we are left with a scattered image of the real world in “Country Strong.” If I may be so bold as to say that the ending proves that Country Strong really isn’t strong at all. There is a lot of coffee conversation here. I recommend this film for a date but understand it is like eating melba toast with watered down iced tea. Nothing “feels” real. Even when Beau and the young starlet Chiles Stanton, Leighton Meester, “get it on” in his hotel room (They apparently get drunk and dare each other to take their clothes off) there is a feeling like neither is really attracted to the other. Certainly this is not a romantic scene. I can almost hear her say, “when am I getting paid for this?” What probably exists on paper as a “love scene” is just two marginal actors filling up space on a time-line of a movie that says little and delivers less in the way of any message.
My final word is this: It its attempt to be “Country Cool” this movie fails to deliver a vignette of what the title and term Country Strong really means.