Jan 2011 07

Let me first start by saying that I do not like country music.  So this will review will not include me critiqueing the music in the film which in actuality will play a large role in whether you enjoy the movie or not.  It is just not my style.  As a result, I went into Country Strong assuming I would not enjoy it.  I feel like the story of a singer and the pressures from around him/her has been done, and this film wasn’t going to offer up much more.  At first glance, I enjoyed the film much more than I thought, but thinking about the film since it has ended I am annoyed with the wavering characterizations.

Country Strong is about Kelly Canter getting out out of rehad a month early so that she can kick start her career once again on a three city mini tour that culminates in a recorded performance in Dallas.  Her husband, James, is the one pushing her to get back on the road.  Beau Hutton is a great singer who loves playing in bars and clubs for anybody who wants to listen.  He has developed a special relationship with Kelly while she was in rehab so Kelly now wants him to open for her in the three cities.  But James has his eye on Chiles Stanton, a former beauty queen who wants to make it big.  After James sees Beau help Chiles with her stage confidence, they are all rounded up to hit the road, but will the show be a great comeback or a failure from the start.

Let’s start with the good.  I really did love the performances in the film.  Particularly Garrett Hedlund who I was not really impressed with during TRON: Legacy.  Tim McGraw and Gwyneth Paltrow both do a great job in portraying the varying emotions so that the audience can real be with them on their rollercoaster.  Leighton Meester is even great as “the next Carrie Underwood”.  While her performance is the least impressive of the four, she is still very good.

I was also surprised at the singing in the film.  Meester, Hedlund, and Paltrow all did their own singing and I was really shocked at how good they were.  I knew Paltrow could due to her guest stint in Glee, and I had read about Meester signing a recording contract.  But Hedlund really shocked me at how good he really was.

My only real complaint about the film irritates the more I think about it.  I felt that the characters were very unbalanced, and the writer/director wanted us to feel all of these emotions for them over the course of the two hours.  Paltrow’s character goes from not liking her to having a few redeeming scenes then back to not liking her.  Hedlund cares deeply for one then ends it and cares for another just the same in just a short amount of time.  I really disliked McGraw the entire film until some of the last scenes in the film where it is revealed that he is not the type of man he has been made out to be the first hour and a half.

Overall, the film was okay.  My girlfriend is a country fan and enjoyed the film very much so I would say if you enjoy the genre then its a no brainer to see it.  But I don’t think I needed to convince you to see it anyway.  I initially would have given the film a high B.  I really did enjoy mainly due to the characters and performances.  But the end of the film came and was a little bit of a downer.  After a lot of thought, I disliked the way the characters were protrayed. 

I give Country Strong a C+.


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