Director: Shana Feste
Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund
Plot: Troubled Country singer Kelly Canter comes out of rehab for alcoholism, but must overcome her personal demons if her comeback tour is to be a success.
According to the unwritten laws of cinema, being a country singer is rarely a simple case of doing a tour, earning big bucks and then spending extravagantly. There always seems to be either a battle with alcohol, drugs, or some destructive drama in their personal life. From Walk The Line to Crazy Heart, the cruel world of fame and excess in this occasionally tackled genre has plenty of real-life inspiration – Betty Ford could have certainly attested to that.
Country Strong moves along the same lines as its predecessors – a few songs, some drama and then a few more songs. But where many biopics are constrained to conveying actual events (or as close as possible), this is not based on the life of a real person so there is far more artistic freedom.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Kelly Canter with an introspective manner – a character trying to find her feet after literally tripping over them at a gig in Dallas where she had fallen off the stage during a concert in a drunken stupor. Even in the more dramatic moments of the film, Paltrow exudes a lost desperation rather than an overblown drama queen.
Her husband James (McGraw) is both her partner and a father figure, almost treating her like his teenage daughter who is determined to press the self-destruct button at every opportunity. McGraw himself is superb, emerging as a fine actor despite being first and foremost a country singer. Although he doesn’t actually perform on-screen, he sings with Paltrow on “Me and Tennessee” written by a certain Chris Martin, which appears on the soundtrack.
Whether or not you enjoy Country Strong will obviously hinge on your taste in music. Even if you can just about put up with a bit of country for a couple of hours you’ll probably find yourself actually enjoying the interludes, which contrast with the generally downbeat feel. There are the inevitable clichés, but this is a well-made film which is definitely worth a look.