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Country Strong
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Country Strong More at IMDbPro »

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

It's all over now, baby Beau

8/10
Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom
27 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Written and directed by Shana Feste, "Country Strong" stars Leighton Meester and Garrett Hedlund as a couple of country western singers. He's humble and shuns the limelight, she craves stardom and accolades. The duo find themselves on the Nashville circuit, singing alongside Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow), a famous singer. All three are managed by James Canter (Tim McGraw), a music producer. Bizarrely, the film then places these characters in a four sided love affair, each in love with another two. Director Shana Feste manages to do this without villainizing any of her characters; all four are sympathetically portrayed.

"Country Strong" ends with Meester and Hedlund eschewing bright city lights for a quiet life singing country songs in rural diners and backwater bars. In contrast, superstar Kelly Canter commits suicide. Some have attacked this. The message, they claim, is that love, success and fame can't exist in the same place, and that women are better off throwing away their dreams and nuzzling up to their men instead. Feste, though, seems to be saying something else. Here, the "authenticity" of country music – its roots in a working class blues and folk music - wins out over contemporary country pop, with its post-processing, auto-tuning and lyrics by committee. Meester also realises that her dreams were never hers anyway, and were merely borne from an unhappy childhood and various insecurity complexes. Hedlund's character, meanwhile, is mocked for perceiving his music as being "authentic". "You've got friends in low places where the whiskey drowns?" Meester ribs him, whilst he attacks her for her Disneyland lyrics ("Little Heartbreaker", "Summer Girl", "Rinky Dinky Town" etc).

"Country Strong's" soundtrack is itself a mixture of whisky and sugar, part Taylor Swift and Heartland Rock, part Towns Van Zandt and Dustbowl Folk. Still, Paltrow, Meester and Hedlund, who do their own singing, are excellent, especially the latter two, who share a number of sexy duets, he engulfing her with his broad, protective shoulders, she like a pint-sized princess who eventually reveals strengths of her own. As it was written and directed by a woman, "Strong" spends a lot of its time sexualising Hedlund, unlike most flicks in this genre, which tend to find old western singers seducing younger women with their rustic charms.

8/10 – Hollywood has always been good when it comes to films set in Nashville or about country music. Some of the best in this genre include "Tender Mercies", "Payday", "The Thing Called Love", "Bound for Glory", "Nashville", "A Prairie Home Companion" and to a lesser extent "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "Crazy Heart".

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

outstanding

9/10
Author: mattkratz (themattk@hotmail.com) from Richardson, TX
10 June 2013

This was one of my favorite country music movies-ranking up with Pure Country. It shows what can happen with the pressures of stardom with Gwyneth Paltrow's character as she disengrates with stardom and personal tragedy. I liked the blending of real-life stars Tim McGraw, Lisa Stewart, Lari White, and Ed Bruce, and my favorite scenes were the concert footage, the bar scenes, the bus scenes, and the room scene where they talked about "Miss America." It was also a good movie about relationships, getting started, and heading out in the right direction. The performances were good, and the cast's chemistry was excellent. If you like the stars and country music, you will love this movie.

*** out of ****

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

An amazing movie with an amazing soundtrack

9/10
Author: maria joao from Portugal
3 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you love country music, this might very well be the movie you've been waiting for. Actually, this is a good movie even if you don't like country music.

The storyline is really interesting and it is one of those cliché movies where you already know how it's going to end when you've barely started watching. There's just enough singing, just enough romance. It's not an empty movie. There is a lot of character and plot development and it is not hard to get attached easily to the characters. The cast does a terrific job as they're all very believable and talented.

I don't really see anything negative about this movie, other than the fact that the ending may come off a little forced but it is not enough to ruin the movie. If you think about it for a while, it even ends up making sense.

This is a movie I would definitely recommend.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Paltrow deserved a better film

4/10
Author: E-shotter from United Kingdom
29 December 2012

It should work, mentally vulnerable but sexy country star, cold, reserved but handsome manager/husband and two wannabe's along for the (ahem) ride(s). The best thing was the music, there's some great tracks and Paltrow reputedly learned to play the guitar to carry this character off but each of the characters were so poorly developed it was hard not to predict the films tired scenes. Country is all about blues and hardship but the script was like something out of Dallas on occasions. It was hard to take the baby bird metaphor seriously and it went on wayyyyy too long and the ambivilence each of the characters displayed to one another just didn't make me care what happened to any of them..honestly, I was more worried about what happened to the chick than them! If after 20 minutes they all got on the tour bus and were wiped out as a result of a fatal car accident I would have been cool with that.. but this went on for another 100 minutes.. harsh I know but Jesus, the amount of starving kids this films budget could have fed is scandalous

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A Country Struggle

10/10
Author: bsieling9211 from United States
17 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Country Strong" is about a country singer named Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow), who has been yanked out of rehab early by her husband James (Tim McGraw). Kelly is trying for a comeback after falling off the stage drunk and losing her baby. Kelly wants her sponsor Beau (Garrett Hedlund), who she has been sleeping with, to be her opening act when she goes back on tour. James who is also Kelly's manager wants Chiles (Leighton Meester) to be her opening act. They both end up going on tour with Kelly and they watch her struggle with her addiction. After an amazing performance by Kelly in Dallas, she returns to her room where there is a shocking ending.

The message of this movie is fame and love cannot exist together. The message in this movie is conveyed well. Kelly is struggling to get her husband back, but her husband is too wrapped up in being her manager. At the Make a Wish event Kelly and James are dancing and we can see that they are in love, but James realizes that everything Kelly has been through and he knows that she is not going to forgive herself. With that being said, one can see in this case Kelly can only try to get her fame back or winning back her husband's love. In the end Kelly realizes it's going to be hard for her to get both back.

I think this movie was overall a great movie. One thing director Shana Feste does well is how she presents being taken out of rehab before one has learned anything from it. James yanked Kelly out of rehab so she could have a comeback singing and when he did that Kelly struggled and viewers got to see her struggle. I thought the way the baby bird represented Kelly was cute. A baby bird is fragile just as Kelly is when she was yanked out of rehab before she was ready to fly on her own. It was weird that James gave the bird to someone else to take care of since that bird kind of represents Kelly. Overall I really enjoyed this movie.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Believable characters, great soundtrack.

9/10
Author: Ashley Kay from Virginia
21 April 2012

If you don't like the South or the country genre, watch this film simply for the versatility of its cast. It shows just how total-package Paltrow, Hedlund, Meester, and McGraw really are. I found Paltrow to be a very believable country personality and her accent was just right, not over-the-top and ridiculous like a lot of other non-southern actors who've acted in southern roles (think "Beans" from Rango). Gwyneth is slow to show her powerful vocals - you'll have to be patient while her character builds up, but it's well worth it. In addition to the actors' abilities, I really loved the "Kelly" (Paltrow) and "Beau" (Hedlund) characters. Kelly is very vulnerable and fragile. She is candid about what she feels and I respect that much more than being prideful and keeping your hurt inside as if you are rock solid (when you know you aren't). Beau is deep and serious, with all the pros and cons that come with being pensive and very caring of others. He feels everyone's fears and pain in addition to his own and it sort of wears him down and makes him moody and severe. Overall I found the film charming, the soundtrack is one you'll actually want to buy. "Give In To Me", "Home", "Me And Tennessee", and "Country Strong" are my favorites. They aren't fads, really I find these tracks timeless.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Country Strong-Weak Film **1/2

6/10
Author: edwagreen from United States
14 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With its Marilyn Monroe like ending, "Country Strong" is rather a benign affair with Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead role, attempting a comeback after a disastrous tour in Dallas.

Even with her faithful manager-husband,Paltrow is unsteady and can't seem to get it all together until a visit to a clinic with a leukemia stricken youngster appeared to set her straight. After giving a great performance at Dallas, where she had bombed previously,Paltrow seemed to get it right only to fall victim to the pills again. Did she take too many by accident or was it a suicide attempt?

The film has that deep southern charm where the music emanates from. As is the case with films dealing with this kind of music, it is rather slow moving.

The young woman trying to make a name for herself and the rising male rock star both represent hope for the industry, but not for the film.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Country Strong

6/10
Author: Spuzzlightyear from Vancouver
22 March 2012

Sort of like "A Star Is Born" for the country music set, and maybe a little "Walk The Line", don't forget "The Rose". and oh, of course, "All About Eve".. As a matter of fact, there's not that much originality in this movie at all, despite it's interesting cast. The main reason I saw this is, I like Paltrow a lot, and was curious to see her pull this role (and the singing) off. She does so with great effect. I like how the final 1/3 become sort of a concert movie, with her pulling out all the stops! Yeah! She's country! The film is sort of knee jerking around though, people shift from one emotion (caring) to another (not caring) without much explanation though. Still, if you're a country music fan, it's hard not to pass this one up.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Move it on over

5/10
Author: Steve Pulaski from United States
23 November 2011

In one of Country Strong's earliest scenes I heard a familiar tune echo very softly in the air. It was Hank Williams' "Honky Tonk Blues." Clearly writer/director Shana Feste was aware of the legend and had enough knowledge and heart to incorporate him in the movie in some way, but why not try and do something a lot better like make an attempt at a biopic at one of the legends. Like Merle Haggard or Ernest Tubb. Johnny Cash was good enough to get his own film, so why not those other legends? But I digress, Country Strong is a mediocre effort in the field of storytelling but rises past the level of decent in almost every other field. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Kelly Canter, a country singer who has had one too many alcohol related episodes and is taken out of rehab just a little bit too early by her manipulative and controlling husband James. James is played by the real-life country singer Tim McGraw, and it isn't until the final scene are we incredibly disappointed that Country Strong has such a fine and powerful singer but chooses to make him not sing a note.

I digress once more; Kelly is persuaded by James to do a series of comeback shows with the opening talents of Beau (Hedlund), who is a closer friend of Kelly's than James sees, and Chiles (Meester). The problem is signs of Kelly's alcohol dependence continue to escalate and personal demons like her accidental miscarriage after falling off the concert stage in Dallas, equipped with a 0.19 blood/alcohol level.

Everyone in the film seems so concerned with Kelly's behavior, but no one takes the step to put her back into treatment. As bad and as gloomy as she can be, neither James nor Beau even seem to mention the fact that maybe this tour was a rushed idea at the expense of Kelly. Believability also hides away when Kelly looks toned, tan, and gorgeous when she is supposed to be "a wreck." Coming from a big fan of country music, I find the score motivational but uninspired and sort of traditional. Paltrow has an amazing vocal talent, and creates an effervescent presence whenever a mic is in her hand. Keep in mind that when I say I'm a big fan of country music, I mean just that. Not Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, JaneDear Girls type country I'm talking Hank Williams, Toby Keith, Keith Urban, Brooks and Dunn, Alan Jackson type country. Paltrow's Kelly actually attempts to bring her music into the light where it's not entirely country but not a lot of pop.

Country Strong desperately wants to work its way into Oscar territory, and it surely had potential. But what really cements this into mediocrity is the script. It hits every cliché loud and proud. The ending is a work of the expected unexpected. You thought about that kind of an ending, believed it would be a little stretched, and it nonetheless happened but your emotions aren't very effected.

I think the main problem is the hokey character development as well - another problem that stems from the script. It depicts every cliché, and seems more concerned with plot points than characters. The Kelly character is charming, but I find it hard to side with a character and feel sympathy for one who can barely control herself and because of her own selfish and immature actions killed her unborn child. It's just a rather sketchy setup that makes it hard to like the main character. The supporting cast of McGraw, Hedlund, and Meester is great, but the contrived relationship that soon forms between the two young ones is a bit too far-fetched.

What it boils down to is that Country Strong is a mixed bag filled with clichés, yet strong performances. It doesn't work its way up to the emotional side of the audience. A goal of that should be on the top of this genre's list. And it doesn't do a strong job at keeping an original, believable setup. If anything, the soundtrack is worth a look more than the film. It's significantly shorter, and cuts out all the clutter between them.

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, and Leighton Meester. Directed by: Shana Feste.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Some great performances

7/10
Author: morninglaurie_17 from United States
11 November 2011

Why do people listen to critics? Are they not secure enough to be able to form their own opinions? I mean, if critics really knew how to act, or write, or direct or produce they'd be doing those things instead of criticizing the work of others.

In the case of Country Strong the critics really have done the movie a great disservice and deprived a lot of people of a moving and enjoyable experience.

The storyline may not be very innovative but is realistic, and Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead probably gives the greatest performance of her life to date. Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester shine in their supporting roles, both having been in other roles previously that left them all but unmemorable. I feel I'll be seeing a lot more of both of them in the near future. And the storyline also has the benefit of a really great soundtrack running throughout. After having seen this movie once I find myself coming back to see it again and again because I can't get enough of this combination.

I highly recommend this movie to everyone. I'm sure they, too, will find it a moving and memorable work.

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