COUNTRY STRONG (2010)

TMG Scale: Movie: 6.0 / Music 9.0
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund. Leighton Meester

Move over Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Give Gwyneth Paltrow a handful of awards at the Grammys on February 13 and the CMA’s next Fall. TMG is a new country music fan after seeing this film, but you should not find it at the Oscars–other than perhaps for best original score or song.

TMG has never been a huge country music fan but this movie started to convert me.  What you pick up on is the real spirit and love  behind country lyrics right along with stories behind them. Garrett Hedlund is terrific as Beau Hutton, a brooding country singer in the shadow of the drug and alcohol addicted country superstar Kelly Canter played by Paltrow. Tim McGraw held his own as the pushy and controlling husband manager as James Cantor.  The music was terrific and the acting superb but they all were under served by a boring and tiresome  plot and not enough sharp writing–except for the song lyrics.

One weird facet of this movie was Kelly putting a baby bird in a wooden box and carrying it around.  I guess it had some symbolism about herself but it was odd and creepy.  If Kelly felt like she was a pretty bird kept by others in a box only for occasional display and amusement, why would she do this to another  innocent creature?  It reminded me a bit of Frank Ronzio as Litmus in Escape from Alacatraz (1979) who kept a mouse in his pocket.  But there the symbolism was more clear. Here, the bird never grows for months and is kept in a small enclosed box.  Where are the PETA folks on this one? Too bad Aaron Sorkin or Quentin Tarantino were not on board to spice the dialogue and storyline up a bit.  I give writer/director/producer Shana Fest credit but she needs to learn to hire some help.  Clint Eastwood famously said as Harry Callahan in Magnum Force (1971)  ” A man’s got to realize his limitations.”

An amazing thing about Paltrow is how her appearance morphs from almost a teenie bopper look in rehab, to sassy young star,  to hardened,  but elegant elder stateswoman of country music.  Paltrow is a beauty all the way but she has so many different angles to her.  The concert scene where Kelly has her comeback late in the movie should be released as a stand alone music video for Paltrow. It will advance the popularity of country music by a lightyear. I wanted to start clapping and dance along.  The fact that Paltrow does her own singing in this is just more amazing. This made the two hours totally worth it to me. I wanted more singing and concert scenes and less of the sappy story.  And I almost forgot to mention how awesome the wannabee country star character played by Leighton Meester was.  If she’s the real thing and not Hollywood, I’ll come to her concerts anytime.

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One Response to COUNTRY STRONG (2010)

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