Country Strong (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/03/2011

One out of Five stars
Running time: 117 mins

Disappointing country music drama that fails to hit the required emotional high notes, thanks to a confused, cliché-riddled script, poor direction and an unconvincing performance from a badly miscast Gwyneth Paltrow.

What's it all about?
Directed by Shana Feste, Country Strong stars Gwyneth Paltrow as country music superstar Kelly Canter, who's battling alcohol addiction after a recent tragedy that occurred mid-tour. When her manager-husband James (real-life country superstar Tim McGraw) pulls her out of rehab a month early, Kelly attempts to get her career back on track with a series of concerts, but is she really up to it?

As if Kelly wasn't under enough pressure, James recruits rising star and ex-beauty queen Chiles Stanton (Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester) to be Kelly's supporting act and Kelly becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband's motives. At the same time, Kelly persuades James to let her “sponsor” Beau (Garrett Hedlund) play on the bill too, but her motives aren't exactly blameless either.

The Bad
Paltrow may be able to carry a tune but she's badly miscast as Kelly and completely fails to convince as a country superstar, let alone a country superstar with an alcohol problem. McGraw is oddly miscast too, since he never actually sings, though Meester acquits herself nicely and Hedlund displays genuine charm and charisma, both of which were entirely absent from his role in Tron: Legacy.

The main problem with the film is the script, which is frankly all over the place and never seems to know where it's going. Quite apart from anything else, the plot isn't even sure whose story Country Strong is supposed to be, since the focus routinely switches between Kelly, Beau and Chiles and you're never sure what (or who) any of the characters actually want at any given time, which makes it impossible to get emotionally involved in the story.

The Worse
To make matters worse, the film vomits up just about every nauseating cliché imaginable (the scene with the sick children has to be seen to be believed) and then tops that off with a dose of extraordinarily misjudged SYMBOLISM (Kelly carrying a baby bird around in a box for most of the time), which renders the film unintentionally laughable.

On top of all that, it doesn't even deliver in the music department, with the same song being repeated over and over again and none of the stage performances coming to life.

Worth seeing?
Country Strong is a badly written, poorly directed country music drama that falls down on every conceivable level. Watch Crazy Heart again instead.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 18:50

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