Where do I begin? When I first heard about this film, I was mildly intrigued. Then when I saw the first trailer which was soon followed by the release of the movie single, “Country Strong“, I was sold. With Burlesque not receiving the warmest welcome with critics, I naturally assumed “Country Strong” would be the music picture event of 2010. Given it had Gwyneth Paltrow, Leighton Meester, Garret Hedlund and Tim McGraw and big country artists on the soundtrack, how could it go wrong? Umm…. let me count the ways.
To say this movie is a rental would be beyond kind. While it wasn’t a complete trainwreck, it wasn’t even guilty-pleasure “Glitter” worthy. Before I get into telling you what I liked (very little) and didn’t like, a little background on the plot would be beneficial.
A rising young singer-songwriter, Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), gets involved with fallen country music star Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the pair embark on a tour to resurrect her career, helmed by her husband/manager, James (Tim McGraw), who accompanies them along with beauty queen-turned-singer Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester). Complications arising from romantic entanglements and old demons threaten to derail them all. – wikipedia description
While the trailers lead you to believe Gwyneth is the star of the movie, it’s actually Garrett Hedlund who’s the main protagonist of the film. Not only is he the moral heart of the film, but he sings the majority of the songs. Had the movie been billed as a love story between Garrett & Leighton’s character, I think “Country Strong” could’ve worked. Instead it tried too hard as a vehicle for Gwyneth to get all countrified and sell some singles.
Lately Gwyneth has been in my good books with her recent stint on “Glee“, but all that was lost when Mrs. Coldplay annoyed me in every scene she was in. You could chalk it up to her great portrayal of an annoying drunk, but I don’t she’s that good of an actress. “Shakespeare In Love” was a fluke and overrated. Words cannot describe how painful it was to watch her character Kelly Canter either cry or play drunk in every scene. Then when she was sober, she wasn’t any better. One minute she’s playing mentor to Chiles, then the next, she’s being an uber bitch. Kelly Canter is one of the most unlikable characters I’ve seen in a while.
The biggest flaw of the movie for me was it felt disjointed. There was no flow between scenes. Character development was all over the place. Was it trying to be a love story, a tragic drama, a PSA for rehab? I’m not really sure, and I don’t think the producers did either. Overall it was just a big ol’ mess. It really pains me to say that, because I really wanted to like this movie. But not even Garrett’s hotness could save this film.
Speaking of Garrett Hedlund, I had no idea he had such a good singing voice. His deep talking voice already had melting, now that I know he could serenade me, I’m seriously considering stalking this guy. He’s such a versatile actor. Just watch him in “Tron” and you’ll see that character and the one here couldn’t be any different, but he sells them both quite well. Garrett wasn’t the only thing I enjoyed. Leighton’s character Chiles Stanton and her pop-country sensibility were as charming as apple pie. When Garrett and Leighton were on the screen, the chemistry they displayed was infectious and adorable. I could’ve watched two hours of that.
With all these great actors, surprisingly Tim McGraw delivered the best performance. This country singer has some serious natural acting chops. Unlike in “The Blind Side” where he simply played Sandra Bullock’s arm candy, here was allowed to show a range of emotion here. He was at his best during the heartbreaking moments with his wife, Kelly Canter. But was well know, a great cast can’t save a film when there’s a ridiculous script.
While the music in the movie wasn’t the most fun and at times it was downright twangy depressing. I enjoyed hearing the actors sing the songs themselves. There were a few standouts for sure. So color me pissed off, when I checked out the soundtrack listing. Most of the songs Garrett and Leighton had sung in the movie had been covered on the soundtrack by Faith Hill, Trace Adkins and other Nashville acts. Gwyneth gets three tracks on the album, while Hedlund and Meester only get one measly song each. Considering they sang the majority of the songs in the movie, this was a travesty.
In closing, it should come as no surprise that I’m not recommending this movie. If you’re hungover one day and you’ve watched everything on your Tivo, and see this playing on TBS, then I suggest you watch it. Not even my man crush for Garrett Hedlund can distract me from this heinous mess. My rating below is very generous and is that high based on my attraction for this man and love for Leighton.
MOVIE RATING: 1.75 out of 5 stars