A group of 12 teenagers from various backgrounds enroll at the American Ballet Academy in New York to make it as ballet dancers and each one deals with the problems and stress of training and getting ahead in the world of dance.
A drama centered on a rising country-music songwriter (Hedlund) who sparks with a fallen star (Paltrow). Together, they mount his ascent and her comeback, which leads to romantic complications involving her husband/manager (McGraw) and a beauty queen-turned-singer (Meester). Written by
Country Strong: Is this movie country music fans have been waiting for?
"Country Strong", a surprisingly good film (even if you live in California and don't happen to like country music). Starring Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man), Tim McGraw (The Blind Side), Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy) and Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl), "Country Strong" succeeds in doing exactly what it sets out to do; that is make a dramatic film about country music that is also entertaining. I know a lot of critics will not agree with me, but in the midst of the awards season this is the one film, not nominated for a big time award, that is worth spending your money on.
Side Note: Oh, and if you're only reading this review to find out if Gwyneth Paltrow can sing, the answer is yes she can. But if you had seen "Duets", then you already knew that she could.
Synopsis: A story that follows fallen country music superstar Kelly Canter (Paltrow) as she is released from rehab and attempts a comeback concert. There is also another, and all around better, storyline that follows the rise of two up and coming country music artists Beau Hutton and Chiles Stanton (Hedlund and Meester), as they try to find out what path to take through the harsh and unforgiving world of the country music industry.
Yes, "Country Strong" may seem a bit to predictable for some and yes, it does lag a bit in the middle of the film (mostly pertaining to Paltrow's scenes), but it does redeem itself with a vengeance in the final 30 minutes of the film. The storyline is really well thought out, the character development here is potent and the acting (including the singing), for the most part, is excellent.
Unequivocally the one actor to take note of in this film is Hedlund, who steals the show with his performance of a country boy/country music purist. His chemistry on screen with just about everyone including the microphone is so authentic, that whenever he is on-screen he literally makes the movie better. Any and all issues I have with this film surprisingly fall directly on the performance of Paltrow. She plays an aging alcoholic Country superstar with as much heart as she can muster, but overall she is sadly uninteresting to watch for most of the film.
Final Thought: "Country Strong" is currently getting raked through the mud by critics for its simplistic storyline, but let me tell you this: anyone (and I mean anyone) who is a fan of Country music will undoubtedly love this film. And even if the Country twang is not your bang, this is a strong enough drama to keep you in your seat. This is no "Crazy Heart" (so no nominations to be found here), but "Country Strong" is still entertaining enough for me to strongly recommend.
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