Country Strong

Directed By: Shana Feste

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, and Leighton Meester

I'm definitely not the world's biggest country music fan.  In fact, I don't even know who today's top country singers are, and I can't name a famous country song off the top of my head.  I'm simply not that interested in the genre.  However, this doesn't mean that I can't appreciate a good tune or even watch a movie about the country music industry.  What I do know is how to recognize a good movie, and Shana Feste's Country Strong is not one of them.

Fallen country music superstar Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a recovering alcoholic in rehab.  Her husband and manager James Canter (Tim McGraw) checks her out of rehab a month early for a three-city concert tour in Texas to help improve her public image.  Kelly agrees to do so on the condition that Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), a lover with whom she's having an affair, performs as her opening act on the tour.  While James agrees, he actually has someone else in mind, country Barbie Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester).

It just so happens that Beau and Chiles have a history together and not a pleasant one.  Beau thinks that Chiles is not a real singer, just some country pop star.  Chiles obviously thinks she's awesome.  Despite their differences, Beau and Chiles end up performing together as the opening act for Kelly's concerts.  As the tour kicks off, what follows is one disaster after another.  Kelly has not had the treatment she needs and is simply not ready.  She needs to confront her personal demons.  Meanwhile, opposites attract as Beau and Chiles become romantically involved.

Country Strong is a decent movie, nothing more, nothing less.  Completely predictable and totally stale, the film is chock full of sex, drugs, and clichés.  Director Shana Feste hasn't done anything special with the film.  Despite a strong performance from star Gwyneth Paltrow, Country Strong is just another movie about a washed up singer.  Despite the fact that it's formulaic, I have to give the film some credit.  There are some good country tunes that will have you tapping your feet on occasion throughout the movie.

While Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, and Leighton Meester do alright in their roles, the actress who stands out in the film is Gwyneth Paltrow.  Country Strong marks a rare occasion where she does something meaningful on the big screen and breaks away from characters that play into her dainty public persona.  Kelly Canter is a flawed character.  She's a drunk.  She's self-loathing.  She's unfaithful to her husband.  Canter is no longer a woman with a fire in her who is tough as nails.   She's a shell of her former self that's been consumed by a dirty business.  Paltrow expertly brings this flawed woman to life and really gives a sad portrayal of a fallen star.  Watching Paltrow as Canter is like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

Admittedly, Country Strong is not my type of film.  I'm not a fan of country music.  That being said, it's still pretty enjoyable despite its flaws.  With a strong performance from Paltrow and somewhat decent performances from the rest of the cast, this film has a certain charm that may reel you in.  You certainly won't need to down as much liquor as Paltrow's Kelly Canter to enjoy this one.  Just a few mojitos will do.  Country Strong gets a 0.09% rating.