Plot summary (from the studio): Soon after a rising young singer-songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) gets involved with a fallen, emotionally unstable country star (Gwyneth Paltrow), the pair embark on a career resurrection tour helmed by her husband/manager (Tim McGraw) and featuring a beauty queen-turned-singer (Leighton Meester). Between concerts, romantic entanglements and old demons threaten to derail them all.
Warning: Spoilers below!
- Garret Hedlund was by far the best thing about this movie. He was sexy, his character was a bit more complex than the others, and I just plain bought him as a country singer wannabe. He was mesmerizing in this role and I was riveted pretty much whenever he was on screen.
- I also liked the Chiles character. I don’t think Leighton Meester is a great actress or anything, but her wholesome, naive character reminded me of Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood (not that I know anything about those two; I’m just going by pictures). Although the wide-eyed newcomer is kind of a cliche in movies like this, I still enjoyed the character and am glad she didn’t sleep with James (unless I missed something) or constantly scheme for Kelly’s downfall.
- I thought the scene where Kelly told Chiles how to succeed in the industry was a good one. Both of them seemed really sincere in it. Kelly wasn’t being bitchy or condescending; she was offering genuine advice. Chiles wasn’t listening just to humor Kelly; she was truly interested in what the woman — the legend — had to say. At that point, the viewer knew something was going to happen to Kelly, and this scene took on even greater significance after
- I’m glad Chiles came back for Beau. I don’t know if that meant she was going to stay with him in that little small-town fantasy of his and work a ls2208 barcode scanner for the rest of her life, but at least there was hope for their relationship. I thought they made a good couple.
- There was too much damn singing! Yeah, yeah — it was a movie about country singers, so what did I expect, right? But still… there seemed to be an awful lot of full-length song performances in this one, and since I’m not a country music fan per se, it made the movie drag for me. There’s something to be said about mainstream appeal, ya know!
- The bird storyline needed/deserved some kind of resolution. I mean, I get that the bird was symbolic of James and Kelly’s lost child, and that’s why James took such meticulous care of it while being reluctant to let Kelly have it. But then at the end the bird was just dropped, completely forgotten. I doubt the screenwriter did that, so I’m just going to assume that some scenes were left on the cutting room floor.
- I found it odd that Tim McGraw, the only bona fide country singer out of the main cast, didn’t sing a single tune in the film (the soundtrack notwithstanding). It would have been cool if he had done something — like pick up a guitar and give Beau or Chiles pointers or whatever.
- That ending was such a downer! I know country music has a reputation for all these worst-case scenarios, but good lord that was rough. Couldn’t they have found a way for Kelly to work through her issues? After all, that would have been more befitting the title, right?
I know Country Strong has received mostly terrible reviews, and while the plot was predictable and not particularly original, I found that I actually didn’t mind watching the film. It wasn’t wholly enjoyable, but it wasn’t pure drudgery either. Hedlund was fun to watch, the Meester character was likable, and there was just enough tension and drama to keep things moving along. I give it 3 stars out of 5.