McCoy on Movies: "Country Strong" Movie Review PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tabari McCoy   
Monday, 10 January 2011 07:00

McCoy on Movies: "Country Strong" Movie Review
Does Gwyneth Paltrow have country strong vocals in Writer/Director Shana Feste's musical dramedy "Country Strong" or does she need autotune assistance? Find out with this review.

"You love me now ... But don't hate me if I release an album like Jennifer Lopez did after a hit movie where she played a singer!" Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow) wows the crowd in writer/director Shana Feste's "Country Strong."


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester


WRITER: Shana Feste


DIRECTOR: Shana Feste




THE PLOT: This film will either be credited or blamed for a potential full launch of the singing careers of its non-musically already famous co-stars. "Country Strong" stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Kelly Canter. A six-time Grammy Award winner, Kelly has fallen on hard times following an incident at a Dallas concert nearly a year ago where she - then five and a half months pregnant - had an incident that landed her in rehab.


That's where she met her "sponsor" Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), a rising country singer-songwriter in his own right. And since the two are getting along famously, it comes as a great surprise to Beau when Kelly lets her know she is getting released a month early. Why is she getting released so soon, you ask?


Because her husband/manager (Tim McGraw) has booked her on an "encore" tour to revive her now flailing career, complete with an opening act in the form of Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), a former beauty queen looking to break into the music industry herself. But Kelly is not going anywhere without her Beau, so the foursome hits the road on the path to redemption, stardom and personal discovery.


What they discover along the way, though, will change their lives forever.


THE TAKE: A few hours after getting home from the screening of "Country Strong," I saw a TV trailer for the film that kind of does "Country Strong" a disservice. While there are some definite romantic comedy elements to the picture, "Country Strong" is a lot more dramatic than you might be led to believe. That's not to say the film doesn't have some flaws, but all things considered, it is a much more serious exploration of the ideas of fame, love and which is more valuable in the long run.


Before I go any further, let me answer some of the most obvious questions you're likely to have about "Country Strong."


[1] Can Paltrow and Hedlund (since we already know McGraw and Meester can) actually sing? In Paltrow's case, the answer seems to be "sometimes" while Hedlund might have a better career ahead of him behind a microphone in a recording studio than on a soundstage. This is by far the best acting he's done in his young career, as he seems at home in his element in "Country Strong." Then again, it's as lackluster/short as some of his previous roles/films have been - 'Death Sentence,' anyone?


[2] Will you actually like the music? If you're into pop country, yes. If not, likely not. If you couldn't tell a Faith Hill song from a Cypress Hill song, what in the world is wrong with you?!


[3] Is this a romantic comedy or a drama? Well, if this movie were a car, it'd be a Prius. For while it is a hybrid, it definitely leans more in the drama direction and sometimes starts to speed into a direction where it needs to pump its brakes before crossing over into melodrama or too cheesy. Writer/Director Shana Feste provides a decent backing track for her cast to work with in terms of a multi-layered story. Hedlund, McGraw, Paltrow and Meester do their best in turn to provide their characters with depth so that you relate and empathize with each at various turns.


PARTING SHOT: So that all leads up to a fourth and likely final question: Is "Country Strong" worth your time? Well, let me put it to you like this - if it were a song, "Country Strong" would be that tune in a lot of people's collection that they enjoyed listening to every once in a while. It might not get the most spins, it'll never go platinum, but when you hear it, you'll think of it fondly ... Or at least won't change the dial instantly.














Scott Garfield. © 2010 Screen Gems. All Rights Reserved.

Tabari McCoy -

Tabari McCoy is Cincy Chic's movie critic. You can check out more of his work on his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @tabarimccoy


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