Review: Country Strong

I’d been looking forward to Country Strong a lot but sadly it didn’t stick around in UK cinemas long enough for anyone to see it. So I picked up my Blu-Ray copy whilst on vacation in the USA, before it hit UK shelves. The film lived up to my expectations, but it’s far from perfect.

Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Kelly Canter, a country superstar who’s just left rehab, now embarking on a comeback tour with her manager/husband (Tim McGraw). However, Canter isn’t completely ready for this and faces a lot of struggle on the way. She’s supported by two young rising country stars on her tour – played by Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester.

The performances are all terrific. Paltrow shows us that she should be headlining movies (not just playing bland supporting roles in the likes of Iron Man). This is one of her strongest performances and it’s a pity that the script isn’t very comprehensive (but I’ll mention that later). McGraw’s performance is generally strong despite the character and relationship with Kelly being underdeveloped. Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester puts in a subtle performance as the ‘sweet as pie’ Chiles Staunton, a character that could be quite annoying – however she’s never overbearing. It’s Garrett Hedlund who really steals the show, however, he’s absolutely terrific as Beau, the young singer coping with rising stardom, torn between two women (Kelly and Chiles) as well as trying to keep Kelly on the rails.

My one major problem with Country Strong is that the narrative lacks development. We’re just immediately supposed to believe that Kelly is off the rails with no hint as to why or how she ended up in this state. One of the incoherent scenes shows see Kelly with mascara running down her face in a drunken mess, then the next immaculately groomed, perfectly happy. Also, it’s tough to tell if the romance between the characters is genuine with the amount of cliched dialogue being chucked around and a couple of love triangles. This isn’t the fault of the cast, more likely a flimsy script.

What Country Strong lacks in the narrative department it makes up for with a killer soundtrack with a cast who can all hold a tune. The soundtrack has been released in two parts – the main tracks from the movie in the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (ft. Country Strong, A Little Bit Stronger, Me and Tennessee etc…) and some lesser known once shown in More Music From The Motion Picture featuring another 6 tracks from Garrett Hedlund. Both should be bought, Hedlund’s voice is phenomenal showing he could clearly have a career in country music, as could Paltrow and Meester.  

Country Strong may not have the strongest script, but the soundtrack and performances are all wonderful, really saving the film.

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