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Country Strong: Is this movie country music fans have been waiting for?
ghost_dog8614 January 2011
"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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A deep and terrific movie
cwdub29 January 2011
I just saw this movie today. I cannot understand why it was rated so poorly and it just shows that I am glad I don't listen to the critics. There are so many that don't like it because they compare it to past movies that are somewhat similar. I have seen very few movies like this especially ones that are based on country so I came in very unbiased. Just take the movie for what it is...on it's own...for a great script and story! The acting was sensational. The singing which was done by the actors themselves was fabulously passionate and real. Gwyneth, Garrett, and especially Leighton...WOW! The story line??? Big deal if it is "similar" to others. This movie seemed so very real to what it could actually be like. Gwyneth's acceptance to "be" the character she has to be was remarkable. She had humor...terrific talent and as a woman/wife who's husband had forgotten how to be a husband and partner (no offense were great too)...she was passionate and playful yet sad and lost. Once again she showed how wonderful and talented an actress she really is.

Garrett and Leighton played their roles very professionally...very real and we need to see more of them.

I love this movie. It had a profound affect on me being a musician and someone who had felt the "loss of hope" the exact same way Kelly did in this movie.

If the critics hadn't beaten it up so much...this movie would have rocked at the box office! Top marks to all involved. Thank you for doing this!
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Loved it! But I do love Country Music.
scarlet9188 January 2011
I loved this movie. It wasn't what I expected at all, but I really enjoyed it and did tear up a couple of times. I have to say I am very surprised by the harsh reviews by critics and some of the users on here!

The movie is a bit too long at almost 2 hours. I think a couple of the acting scenes were repetitive, but I am glad they did not cut any of the music they had. There is a LOT of music but the actors all pull it off quite well, with some of the songs actually being recognizable as real country songs if you are familiar with the genre.

I must admit I am a huge country music fan and I like all country, not just the newer pop stuff. So take my review knowing that. However, I did take 3 people with me to the advance screening and 2 of them listen to NO country music. All 4 of us thought the movie was great. Three of us cried.

I think the previews are marketing the movie all wrong. It looks like it will be an uplifting film that shows us the bad stuff in the beginning, then maybe a bump or two, then everybody winds up happy and "Country Strong." This is not the case at all.

It is a sad look at addiction but I think more realistic than someone coming out of rehab and everything being sunshine and lollipops. The characters are all flawed, with perhaps Beau being the only one who comes out in a mostly positive light, but even he has his issues and is far from perfect.

It also looks like Gwyneth is the only lead in the previews, but all 4 major characters have quite a large amount of time on screen and I think Beau has the same (or maybe even more) screen time as Gwyneth. I had never heard of this actor (had no clue he has the lead in TRON) and I came home to look him up immediately because I thought surely he was a real up and coming country singer.

Gwyneth's voice is really good, and if Garrett or Leighton ever made a country album, I would buy it. Tim doesn't sing in the movie but has a song on the soundtrack, but that was the way he wanted it and I respect him for that. This was the first movie of Tim's where I did forget at least a couple of times that I was looking at "THE" Tim McGraw. He was fine in Blindside, but it was a small role.

If you have a passionate hatred for country, I do not think you will enjoy the movie because there is a lot of singing in it. However, you do not need to love country as I do to enjoy it. If you can so much as tolerate it or accept the singers as being talented, I think you'll be fine.

I plan to buy the soundtrack, but wish it had more from Garrett and Leighton because they each sang a lot more than 1 song in the movie!
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Movie was Excellent
ryandayonftrp16 April 2011
I am honestly starting to not even bother looking at IMDb before I rent or go see a movie because they always seem to be way to harsh or not even at all close. My wife and I just watched Country Strong with Tim Mcgraw, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gerrett Hedlund and we both thought the movie was awesome!!! Very very good acting and Garrett Hedlund should def think about a music career or at least put out an album, because that guy has a very unique voice, and he is awesome!

The movie shows the trials and tribulations in the star world and what i can do to someone and I thought it was just a very good movie. I would highly recommend watching this.
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"Country Strong" Plays Both Kinds of Music - Country and Western
jgregg427 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
What do I know about country music? I own a few Johnny Cash albums. I never jumped on the Billy Ray Cyrus bandwagon. I never tried to impress a girl by pretending Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift is my type of music, and I can honestly say I have never participated in a line dance. So, what was I doing at a screening of "Country Strong?" Maybe it was because I knew that this genre of music has millions of fans worldwide and a long history going back several decades. With that extensive history, the music and the performers have a chivalrous quality.

The film begins with Beau Hutton (played by Garrett Hedlund) and Kelly Canter (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) both in an alcohol rehab facility. Kelly was once a six-time Grammy winner in this fictional country world. It is implied that something awful happened in Dallas due to her drinking problem and that is why she is in rehab now. "Dallas" soon becomes code for "rock bottom" throughout the story. Beau works at the rehab facility as Kelly's sponsor (a sponsor who drinks, but her sponsor none the less) and is also a country music singer.

Kelly's husband/ manager (who is about 20 percent husband and 80 percent manager) James Canter (played by Tim McGraw) comes to pick up Kelly from rehab. Instantly there is tension between James and Beau. McGraw does a great job of playing the reserved yet highly focused and determined manager of Kelly's career. James pulls Kelly out of rehab early to reboot her career. It was never stated that he was doing this for money. The underlying issues of James have something to do more with money than with fame.

James recruits a young beauty queen, Chiles Stanton (played by Leighton Meester) to open for Kelly's comeback tour. Again there is tension between James and Beau. Beau doesn't want to open for Kelly; he wants to stay true to the music by playing in the honky tonk bars and not do it for the money. How noble.

Beau also has an instant love/ hate with Chiles and sees right through her phoniness. Beau and Chiles represent the two sub genres of country music. Beau wants to have a good time singing country tunes while Chiles wants the pop stardom and to sing songs that have titles like rides at Disneyland (that was a joke from the movie).

Kelly's first show is a disaster. An event from her past (yep, you guessed it, Dallas) comes back to rattle her and she goes back to drinking. James graciously forces Kelly onto stage where she has a breakdown. For much of the film there was a series of relapses for Kelly followed by fits of her crying followed by instantaneous sobriety. I hope the studio was paying Paltrow by the tear drop; she would have made millions off that deal alone.

The story goes from a love triangle to pretty much a love rectangle between the four main characters. We move into a series of romances on the tour between three of the stars. Beau wants Kelly. Kelly wants Beau, her husband and her booze. Chiles only wants Beau. Then Beau wants Chiles. James really just wants to be left alone while he works on his business deals.

The story finally climaxes to Kelly's big finale in Dallas (yes, the same "Dallas" as before) where all three of the top stars give great performances. To add a the dramatic element, before each musician gives their superb concerts they have one-on-one heart-to-heart talks in the dressing rooms letting each other know how they feel about each other.

Should you see this movie? Maybe, if you are a fan of country music you might appreciate it a little more than I did. If you are a casual listener, there might not be enough to hold your attention. It did give a great view of what goes on behind the scenes of the music industry. The performances and singing by the cast were amazing (McGraw, the only real country music singer in the film, doesn't sing a single note). The ending was unique because it was something new to this type of film. It does end like an old country song.
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Great Film, Great Performances - Surprised at the low IMDb Rating?
michaelgrantham14 April 2012
Since I'm fond of good country music I thought I'd give this a try, despite not being very keen on Gwyneth Paltrow. However, in this movie she gives a storming performance as a famous country singer, gradually falling apart with depression and alcohol - and she has a great voice! Yes that really is Gwyneth singing in the film.

The good news doesn't end there because the supporting cast are just as good, Garret Hedlund and Leighton Meester were fantastic and so good as country singers that I immediately looked for their albums, but apart from the Country Strong Soundtrack, there aren't any! These are just great actors with great voices. Add in a strong performance from Tim McGraw (Oh why cant you just love your woman? - that's all she needs!!).

With fine, layered performances from all and a storming soundtrack, this is definitely unmissable for any country music lover. I'm still humming the tunes days later.

By the way, be careful if buying the soundtrack album. There are two! The first has other artists covering many of the film's songs and though it's a good album, isn't strictly from the soundtrack in every case. The second album, with the same name, seems to have original performances from the film, but was out of stock and I have it on back order. I think this is the more popular one.

Anyway, if, like me, you don't watch films that score less than about 6 on IMDb, make this one an exception. You wont regret it!
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The Last Call for Alcohol (spoilers)
starryeydsurprize25 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I'll be honest. I am NOT a country music fan. Nor am I a fan of country music movies, westerns, or anything that has cowboy boots in it. That being said, I just finished watching Country Strong and I have to readjust my views a bit. I still dislike westerns intensely but I now have a country music movie to add to my list of favorites. It could be the very pretty cast of actors, or it could be the engrossing storyline, or it just might be the music that had me swaying in my seat, whatever it was, I left the movie as a devoted fan.

This gripping movie is about a country megastar named Kelly Canter, played by the illustrious Gwyneth Paltrow and her rocky journey through the world of alcoholism. The movie boasts a well put-together cast, starring Tim McGraw as Kelly's husband/manager, James, Garrett Hedlund as her sponsor and opener, Beau Hutton, and Leighton Meester as the up and coming country singer, Chiles Stanton.

The movie starts out in a rinky-dink dance hall in Nashville, Tennessee. You can hear the gravelly voice of Beau Hutton telling a story about wanting to sing like Merle Haggard for his mom's benefit. She tells him that he sounds good but he's no Merle. Beau then launches into a Merle-esque song, Chances Are, and it was the first time that a country song actually made me swoon. Beau is a good ol' boy, wearing his stained and weathered cowboy hat and driving a rusted-out truck. It turns out; he is also Kelly Canter's sponsor in rehab.

Kelly's husband checks her out of rehab a month early, against Beau's better judgment. James believes that getting her "back on the horse," and touring again will get her healthy faster than being in a rehab center. James come across as money-hungry, however, throughout the movie we learn that he does love his wife and only wants the best for her. As Kelly's manager, he is in charge of finding new talent to open for Kelly. He goes to see a former beauty queen with a surprisingly good voice named Chiles Stanton.

Chiles is an extremely pretty, young girl with an exaggerated Texan accent. She wears too much make-up and has her hair full and curly. "I don't know what's bigger, the hair or the dress" is how the stage manager describes her. She seems very confident when you first meet her; however, as soon as she gets onstage, she freezes up. She is rescued valiantly by Beau Hutton, who was the performer before her. Chiles' fresh-faced look appeals to the audience once her stage fright is past. With her glittering outfit, high heels, and make-up, she truly looks like a country Barbie.

After James hears both Beau and Chiles singing, he decides to offer the opening acts to both of them. He also, reluctantly, wants Beau along to help him watch over Kelly. James recognizes that Kelly is going to need a lot of help while on the road. The scene where James asks Beau to tour with them demonstrates just how palpable the animosity is between the two men. The acrimony turns out to be precognizant of the situation because Beau and Kelly are indeed having an affair.

During the tour, we learn of the reason that Kelly is in rehab. Several months ago, in Dallas, Kelly was drunk onstage, tripped over a cable, and fell 10 feet off the stage. She was five months pregnant at the time and lost the baby, as a result of the fall. The guilt she feels over the incident keeps her drinking until rehab. James tries to love her in spite of the miscarriage, but you can feel the blame he places on her. There is a touching scene between James and Kelly where he says "The first time I heard you sing, I knew. I wasn't much of a church man, but I thought that must be what angels sound like. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven." You can sense just how much this couple has been through in their marriage.

The tour starts and stutters along with Beau and Chiles carrying the responsibility while Kelly is drinking herself from town to town. The depression is dragging Kelly down and she makes numerous mistakes. Beau and Chiles start to have feelings for each other because they are thrown together in so many scenes. They have a charming scene where they sing a duet together and just watching them on the big screen, you can feel the chemistry between them. The relationship between James and Kelly, however, is disintegrating bit by bit. You can see the strength and fortitude that Kelly has, even as her marriage and career are crumbling around her. She gears up to go back to Dallas, on a repeat tour, even though that was where she lost her baby and embarrassed herself earlier that year.

In Dallas, Kelly seems a different person. She is driven and confident. The loyalty of her fans seems to boost her esteem and she does what she can to stay sober. There is a scene before the concert between Beau and Chiles, where he informs her that he is leaving the show and heading to California. He asks Chiles to go with him and she is unable to give him the answer he wants. The disappointment on his face is touching.

Some critics may say that Country Strong is cheesy, clichéd, and predictable but I found that not to be true. I felt the desperation of Kelly's predicament and the doomed love of her marriage. I found the relationship between Beau and Chiles to be refreshing and romantic. And most of all, I found the music to be stirring and award-winning. Maybe it will never win an Oscar, but it's still two thumbs up from me!
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Not terrible but not good.
genesaugey9 January 2011
As a relatively new fan of country music, I must say I was disappointed in this movie. It had its moments, but overall I cannot recommend it. The clumsy, disconnected screenplay was probably the worst aspect of the film as it gave the actors little to work with. There didn't seem to be much continuity to the film, but just a bunch of scenes thrown together. Aside from her singing the title song, there was nothing about the main character (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) that was remotely strong, and the ending was hardly inspiring in that regard. I cringed through the first half of the movie, which seemed to go overboard in portraying her flaws and failures, and wondered how much lower she would get before she turned things around. It was quite depressing, with no "payoff" at the end to make it worthwhile.

What the movie does have is some pretty good music. Paltrow, Garrett Hedlund, and Leighton Meester all sang quite well and almost made this movie worth seeing. Hedlund gave the best acting performance, and Meester wasn't bad. But I was quite disappointed in Tim McGraw's effort and feel it was the weakest of his budding career. I don't know if it was because he was playing an insensitive jerk as opposed to the nice guys of his previous roles, but he seemed strained and unnatural. And as well as Paltrow sang, and as much as I have enjoyed previous work by her, she was unconvincing in her portrayal of a country superstar (limited in part by the poor script, as noted earlier). The charisma just wasn't there.

Seeing a movie like this makes me appreciate well-written and well-acted movies all the more. They have a unifying theme that takes you somewhere and ties things together at the end (unless, of course, there is to be a sequel). "Country Strong" just didn't have what it takes, but ending up looking more like a direct-to-video film. It should have been titled "Country Pathetic."
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Country Strong is very strong!
Schuhgal10 April 2011
I actually really loved it and I too am glad I watched it despite many people not liking it enough. I liked Gwyneth and Garrett but Leighton was just amazing with her singing and her portrayal of the layered Chiles Stanton. Loved it! I am looking forward to seeing more movies of Leighton which are coming out this year and I am hoping they will be as strong. I am actually rather surprised as to why people didn't like it-...I guess they were comparing to movies made before on country music with similar story lines but I didn't mind at all! I loved the banter between Chiles and Beau - was absolutely the best part about the movie!
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Not a bad movie....not a great movie....some good songs
ris14357 January 2011
This is a decent movie but not one that I loved. The singing in the movie is top notch except for 1 or 2 of Paltrow's songs which were just okay. These are some seriously talented people. Huge surprise that Leighton Meester is a terrific singer. You might know her from Gossip Girl.

You probably already know the synopsis -- alcoholic singer goes back on the road to try and reclaim her past star status pushed along by her manager/husband. She bonds with a young male singer/guitar player who she brings along on her mini-tour who, despite the best of intentions, can't quite pull her out of her addictive cycle. Leighton Meester plays a very sympathetic and likable character who is just trying to live her dream...she's brought along on the tour by the husband/manager.

Overall, it was a depressing see someone battling addiction and how it eventually wears down the people around them to the point where they look like they are nasty (poor McGraw) when in reality they are just tired of the cycle of self-destruction.

What was entertaining and enjoyable about the movie was the songs and the concert scenes. It was a nice movie to go see on a snowy night....doubtful that I would rent it once it became available or buy it on DVD...which is kind of the benchmark for me on what is a good movie.

You won't waste your money seeing it but you'll probably wish you'd seen it at a reduced price or at the matinée if you paid full price.
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I have only 1 complaint
stevenball220 August 2011
Tim McGraw doesn't sing in the movie. He and Gwyneth sing a duet but it is played over the credits. Tim's acting continues to improve. He is obviously ready for starring roles. Maybe a Western? The real surprise is Garrett Hedlund who all but steals the movie. He has a terrific baritone & should definitely do an album. Either a cover album or a CD of original music. Leighton Meester also does well in a supporting role. Ms. Paltrow delivers a fully realized performance as a country Judy Garland type. Robert Altman has already covered much of this territory in his masterpiece Nashville which contains a character based loosely on Loretta Lynn. Country Strong is a more updated version. The soundtrack is excellent.
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The most depressing movie I have ever seen
wilcojunkie33 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I love Gwyneth Paltrow and Garrett Hedlund (c'mon, he's hot), and I expected this movie to be about the recovery and redemption of a musician, and she makes her comeback and everyone loves her. But then she leaves the stage right after her comeback show to lock herself in her dressing room to purposely OD? That ruined the entire movie for me. The music was great and I hope it establishes Garrett Hedlund as a strong actor. And who knew he could sing? But it was so depressing I would never want to see it again, despite the good qualities. I don't know if people like it because it's one of the few movies about country music or if people just want to be depressed. If you want a movie about country music, watch Walk the Line. Yeah it gets extremely depressing at times, but nothing like this. And it's a true story. Sorry, it could have been a really good movie...until the end. Although it was pretty depressing from the start.
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Great Movie
vikings9250316 July 2010
My wife & I went to the screening of this movie (7/15/10)not knowing a lot about it. We just knew it had country music in it. Not being country music fans we were not sure how we would like it. We both thought it was a great movie. The acting, story & music was excellent.I am not able to go into too much detail abut the movie yet. But will when the trailers are released. I believe you will enjoy this movie greatly! It is hard to compare it with other movies I have seen but I guess you would call it a Drama / romance movie. I think it will appeal to people in their 20's and up. Maybe a date movie? This movie is NOT just for people that like Country Music. As I stated I am not a Country music fan but came out thinking I would not mind owning the soundtrack. It is a must see when it comes out in Dec. You will not be disappointed
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Another Top-Notch Country Music Movie
zardoz-1311 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Oscar winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow of "Shakespeare in Love" gives an electrifying performance as a country music superstar in writer & director Shana Feste's "Country Strong," an earnest tabloid tearjerker about a troubled country crooner in decline. Actually, Feste's film owes a great deal to the venerable Hollywood soaper "A Star Is Born" that charted the fall of a superstar and the rise of a talented newcomer. Ironically, Feste has said that she drew on the travails that Britney Spears endured when her career took a downward spiral. Mind you, all country music yarns about warblers basically conform to a familiar storyline. You know that "Country Strong" is going to be about the headlines and the heartaches that a vocalist wallows in when either he or she tries to cleanse their shattered souls with booze, pills, and extramarital affairs. Feste's superior screenplay with sympathetic characters and surprises galore as well as top-notch thesping by an all-around brilliant ensemble cast make the formulaic subject matter far better than you can ever imagine. You don't have to groove country tunes to wade into this melodrama ripe with interesting characters and raw predicaments. Paltrow's offbeat casting is a bonus and she dominates the action even though she is often out of the limelight with real-life country singer Tim McGraw playing her husband. Anybody who loved "Walk the Line," "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Nashville," "Sweet Dreams," and "Crazy Heart" will find this 117-minute, PG-13 pseudo biographical drama as musically rewarding as it is psychologically riveting.

Grammy winning country music sensation Kelly Cantor (Gwyneth Paltrow) is in rehab when "Country Strong" begins. A year before the pregnant Cantor performed on stage in Dallas and tripped over a cable. She plunged into the audience and suffered a miscarriage. Later, the authorities arrested her because she had been drunk when she had her tragic accident. While in rehab, our recovering alcoholic meets a talented young singer Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund of "Georgia Rule") who dreams of pursuing a career in country music. Beau prefers to play honky-tonk bars where people drink and listen to his tunes rather than tour. Nevertheless, he gets to meet Kelly while she is in rehab, and they have an affair. Before Kelly is fully prepared to leave rehab, her career manager/husband James Canter (Tim McGraw of "The Blind Side") secures her early release. Symbolically, Kelly totes around an orphan baby quail in a tiny wooden box that she has been nursing back to health. Principally, James wants to get Kelly back in the spotlight on stage before she is written off as a 'has been.' He has lined up a three city tour: Austin, Houston, and finally Dallas. Beau doesn't think that James' idea is a good one. Naturally, Kelly is ready, willing, and eager. One of the conditions that she decides on before they leave rehab is that Beau accompanies them on tour. Of course, James suspects something is going on between Beau and his wife. James and Kelly aren't the ideal couple since she lost his baby in an alcohol fueled frenzy on stage. As if to counteract his wife's demand, James finds a beautiful young singer, Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester of "Date Night"), to open for Kelly. Kelly warns Chiles to stay away from her husband. Meanwhile, Beau pokes fun at Chiles' clean-scrubbed image as a beauty pageant queen with school teacher parents.

Although Beau and Kelly make out behind James' back, you know that Beau and Chiles are intractably drawn to each other because they are so antagonistic when they see each other. Beau's prediction that James took Kelly out of rehab too early comes true when she cannot make her first stage appearance. Kelly's publicist claims that a bad case of food poisoning kept the superstar from performing at her Austin comeback concert. Indeed, things grow progressively worse for our heroine. She blows her stack when James gives a song that Kelly wanted to record to young Chiles. While they are touring Texas, Beau finds himself attracted to Chiles and he tells Kelly that he doesn't like having her behind James' back. Despite her multitude of problems, Kelly rallies when she appears in concert in Dallas where she took a dive a year ago. Eventually, Kelly mends fences with poor Chiles and gives her a laundry list of suggestions about life, love, and performing on stage. Moreover, the sagacious Kelly sees right through Chiles' squeaky clean image. Never lie to your fans, the two-faced Kelly advises Chiles.

"The Greatest" writer & director Shana Feste does a superlative job orchestrating her characters. Just when you think that you have a character pigeonholed, the character performs an about-face that catches you off-guard. Perhaps the most ironic element of "Country Strong" is Tim McGraw's turn as the heroine's music manager. You'd think that McGraw would have taken the plum role that Garrett Hedlund landed, but it is McGraw's offbeat casting, like Paltrow's, that gives "Country Strong" its strength. Incidentally, Paltrow warbles her own tunes. Meantime, Leighton Meester registers an excellent performance and proves that her insecure character is far from the shallow princess that she appears to be from the outset. Although this $15-million movie takes place in Texas, Feste and company lensed it primarily in Tennessee. "Country Strong" unspools like a series of memorable high notes.
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Pop country strong: an oxymoron
holistic-526 March 2011
This film is poor, but not awful. The acting is decent, but the storyline is unbelievable. Paltrow's character acts like a Johnny Cash type figure, with lots of flaws that disappear on stage. But what doesn't fit is her hard times with her painfully mainstream music. Any musician or artist in general would know that really good music/art comes from pain, and the music is far from good, it's POP. Maybe once, many years ago when mainstream country music was GOOD, it was pop(ular), and it featured many musicians who struggled with their past, with drugs and alcohol, with crime and alas, that's what made it good. This film paradoxically combines the darkness of country stars of old with the tepid music of Nashville country stars today. There goes any believability. No, this is a pop country music fan's fantasy film. SO if you're one of those, you'll like the movie on its mythological basis alone. If you're a fan of dark, edgy country in the "outlaw" or Alt-country veins, you'll see right through the film's fallacies before the trailer ends.
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A terrible muddle and then it ends
HAL9000-417 January 2011
A story with four characters and yet no main character. We are supposed to root for Gwyneth Paltrow's character yet she doesn't have that much screen time outside of "concert footage". She has no backstory, no history, only "the thing in Dallas" which is not fully revealed until halfway through the story.

Even Beau, who shares about 55% of the screen time, we know nothing about. Well, only two things: he is a singer/songwriter and he used to be an orderly at a rehab. That's it. Zip.

Not only do the characters have no past, but no future either, other than "Be a Star", whatever that means.
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Country Strong is weak territory.
st-shot8 January 2011
This trite piece of prepared frozen food with four card board cut outs on the package is predictable hogwash from the get go. It's all rhinestone glitter with an anemic country twang whose roots can be traced to the Hollywood hills of bankers and moguls trying to separate the trailer park nation from their money with a dumb down formula fit for mass consumption and a plot as long as a three minute country song. It's all juke box jive.

Like JFK, Dallas has bad connotations for country sweetheart Kelly Cantor (Gwenyth Paltrow) whose super star country singer status is held in peril by a fondness for alcohol ( easily remedied if she adopted C&W octogenarian Willie Nelson's game plan). Like Hank and George did before her she succumbs to the pressures of touring and being worshiped and is shipped off to a Cowboy Town rehab. There she finds the understanding her husband/ manager (Tim McGraw) can't provide from a counselor (Garret Heylund) who of all things is a country singer himself. Will they duet? Will she climb back to the top? Will she vanquish country cutie Chiles Stanton? Who cares. After a few minutes you'll more than likely be sneaking into another offering at the multiplex.

Director Shana Feste takes up where she left off in her directorial debut The Greatest, a mawkish weepie of the first order. CS doesn't bubble over with the same ardor but it does have the same oder of pre fabricated phony emotion that Feste might have culled from a Lifetime network original that Paltrow is right at home with . The limited actress who has gone from winning an Oscar to playing ancillary character Pepper Potts in the Iron Man series doesn't embarrass herself with her singing but she's far from the natural Sissy Spacek was on stage and off in Coal Miner's Daughter or the dubbed but unglammed presence of Jessica Lang doing her Patsy Cline take. As a straight actress Paltrow is as drab as dishwater and putting her up on stage only magnifies this even with the backing of superb musicians and the rabid cheers of sold out arenas to support her. This is one sad soaper.
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Performances And Country Music Can't Make The Movie Excellent
Desertman8423 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Country Strong is a movie that stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, and Leighton Meester. The story is about an emotionally unstable country music star who attempts to resurrect her career.It was written and directed by Shana Feste.

While in rehab,Kelly Canter has a fling with an admiring orderly,Beau. An aspiring singer/songwriter,Beau tells Kelly's manager and husband, James, that he's her "sponsor". Anxious to revitalize her career, James checks Kelly out early to send her back on tour. He may love his wife, but he doesn't know when to stop pushing. When he hears Beau's duet with former beauty queen Chiles, he adds them to the bill. When they travel from Tennessee to Texas, Beau discovers that Chiles is more talented and intelligent than he thought, but he remains devoted to his mentor, even though he knows they have no future. When Kelly starts drinking again, Beau gravitates towards his more stable tour mate.

The cast gives a great performance particularly Gwyneth Paltrow with the way she handles her songs.Also,it features great country music.Unfortunately,its clichéd and formulaic screenplay makes it less of an excellent movie.Also,the story is disjointed in the sense that some elements in the plot are far from clear.
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The performances are decent, but the film needs a purpose.
Christian_Dimartino12 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I love Gweneth Paltrow. I do. I always have, always will. But sadly she couldn't even save one of her latest films, Country strong. Now, it may sound biased if I say that I hate country music. But thats not quite why Country strong didn't work as a movie. There is just no real purpose to it.

Paltrow gives a decent performance as country music star Kelly Canter. Canter is currently in rehab, ready to go on another tour. But she has a couple of things holding her down, including personal demons and romantic entanglements. Basically, she's having an affair with an up and coming star(Garrett Hedlund) while her husband(Tim McGraw), who is kind of a jerk, has feelings for another up and coming star(Leighton Meester).

The actors here show talent, unless they weren't really singing the songs. Paltrow, as always, gives a good performance. But its just a shame that she plays a bad person, which is rare(she did in last weekends excellent film, Contagion).

Actually, it was hard to find a likable character.They are all bad people, and eventually they just don't stop doing bad things. One has an affair with another, who sleeps with another, and they really don't quit. And it's not like there is any kind of redemption either.

The characters are bad people, and they don't exactly stop. And as for the ending, its just not what this movie needed. The ending just wanted us to feel something for the character(s). If it wanted that, then they should've tried harder for us to like them.

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Strong performances, great music, but a sad undertone makes Country Strong fun to watch
Robert_duder23 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I am not a huge country music fan but I also don't dislike it. My father has been a country music fan since forever so some of it rubbed off. I've seen some brilliant country music films like Crazy Heart, and Walk The Line. Country Strong might not quite fit in with those amazing films but it does hold its own and strong Country music fans will absolutely love the film telling stories of multiple artists and their trials and tribulations. The multiple award nominated music is very well done, original and easy to listen to. The chemistry between the cast is terrific and the story moves a long very well. Unfortunately where the story might stumble is also one of its strongest points and that is the story of the main character Country superstar Kelly Canter. Her character is so sad, forlorn, lost and washed up. They do manage to give her a bit of an empathetic edge so that she isn't completely lost on the viewers but her character, and her drinking problem, and horrible things she does does tend to make her a little bit unlikable. This also however plays into the relationship between Kelly Canter and her husband.

Gwyneth Paltrow plays the lead Kelly Canter. Certainly she is terrific in her role, and she has a really great voice and her singing is amazing. (See her on Glee too if you haven't already.) Considering how much Paltrow's character goes through in the film she shows some great range in this performance. It probably deserved more notice than it got. Tim McGraw is becoming an acting force and good for him! He impressed in The Blind Side and he is right at home as Canter's husband and manager. He is clearly a shrewd manager in country music and his hard edge and yet romantic side is great to watch. McGraw always has this subtle, quiet performance that leaves an impression and this is no exception. Garrett Hedlund plays young up and comer Beau Hutton who also catches the eye of the needy Kelly Canter and they end up in a torrid affair. Hedlund is great and fits his role so well. Him and Paltrow have good chemistry together and the relationship between his character and McGraw's really creates some heated tension. Leighton Meester plays another new up and comer, the lovely, and horrifyingly sweet Chiles Stanton. Meester plays her character exactly as I said...horrifyingly sweet and she has a beautiful voice and she adds some spark to the entire film. I think she has a good career in front of her on the big screen! This is a far cry from her Gossip Girl character.

Country Strong is just really all about these characters who are intertwined in the country music industry. Its really something to watch. Virtually a newcomer, director and writer Shana Feste must be a huge country music fan because this film lives and breathes that genre of music. But its so much more than that because its about marriage, celebrities, music, romance, affairs, and friendship. You can't go wrong with this drama and you'll be entertained and intrigued by the characters. Check this one out for something fun and interesting and especially if you love Country music because this one is full of Country Strong. 8/10
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Country Strong
gleespenmm24 January 2011
Country Strong is a great movie with an excellent cast. Although it is definitely a tear-jerker, it never once lost my attention. Gwenyth Paltrow plays the role of a fallen country music star, Kelly Canter, who is pushed by her controlling husband, James Canter (Tim McGraw), to continue with her career after a short stay in rehab for alcoholism. Despite the fact that Kelly knows she is not yet ready to get back out on stage, she agrees to do so under one condition: she can bring along musically-talented friend and lover, Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), as her opening act.

While Kelly struggles with her relapse into alcohol addiction, Beau finds love with young, rising star, Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), and James is left disappointed and hurt. All cast members do a great job of really embodying their roles, and Paltrow does an exceptional job of showing the struggles and depression of alcohol addiction.

Although this movie is not really like any other, I would probably compare it to the movie Blow. In both movies, the main characters try to leave their addictions in the past, but are so reliant upon them that they continually relapse, which ultimately leads to their downfall.
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Every Cliché a Country Music Movie can Have...
dancinhomer21 September 2011
... can be found in Country Strong. Every plot device has been done (and done better) in films you have seen a thousand times before. That alone doesn't necessarily make for a bad movie. Crazy Heart had nary an original idea in it, but it was still a great film.

This is the kind of movie you expect to see on the Lifetime Network. Lazy writing, competent-but-nothing-memorable acting and a generic soundtrack total a big "there's nothing THERE there!"

Paltrow tries gamely, bless her heart. She's an okay actress and has a decent singing voice, but still managed to be absolutely unconvincing in her role. You will never lose yourself watching this performance - you are acutely aware from start to finish that you're watching someone ACTING.

Sorry, folks, but I'm from Oklahoma and we know country music and the country music scene. This movie is the kind of movie that gets made by people who think they know what they're talking about, but you know better. I'd strongly recommend Crazy Heart over this nonsense.
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dansview4 April 2015
I liked the opening.It showed a humble, scruffy young country singer playing a non-descript low-brow gig, then driving his old pick up truck, while changing into his uniform for his shift at a psychiatric hospital.

Oh jeez...Gwyneth Paltrow as a famous country singer? Give me a break. In fact, Gwyneth Paltrow as anything other than the untalented daughter of a Hollywood writer? Give me a break. I didn't buy it for a second.

Nothing against Tim McGraw, but one has to have more than a Southern accent to be an effective actor. What are his qualifications? He's awkward.

The best thing about this movie is Garrett Hedlund. He has charisma like a big movie star might. The music sucked and the plot was non-existent. But this actor kept me watching for about half the film, before I gave up.

Alcoholism is such a boring and clichéd plot device. The screw-up country star and the hungry up-and-coming, aspiring country singer theme is equally clichéd.

Show me something different. How about a country singer who wants to sing opera or funk? Or a country singer who wants to be a reporter, but can't break free from who they are? I don't see how anyone could actually believe that this sanctimonious, paint-by-numbers trash would entertain anyone. Yet plenty of reviewers here liked it. Go figure.
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Spectacular film with great music.
lynette-927-97337518 December 2010
Just an amazing film - Gwyneth Paltrow shines. The music is wonderful and I'm not even a country music fan. Everyone will enjoy this film - it's a classic comeback story with twists and turns that illuminate the dramas we all face in life. The performances are heartfelt and director Shana Feste brings her writing to life in a way that touches the soul. Gwyneth Paltrow delivers a riveting performance that may well be Academy Award material. And she can sing, which might come as a surprise to many. The title song is sure to become a huge hit (huger than it is already that is) as it speaks to an indomitable spirit that is the best of our humanity. A tour de force and a must see, Country Strong is just that: Strong.
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Why were deaf people not given the song lyrics.
spencerirvine115 July 2012
This is a musical. Deaf people like musicals too. But not one single song lyric is subtitled. If a character is talking on stage there are subtitles. As soon as that character starts singing the subtitles stop. This makes no sense what so ever. Why treat a deaf person this way. We already can't here the music. It's like kicking us when were already down. Are the mega-stars in this movie okay with this? Some movies respect the deaf so much they will subtitle a cow going "moo". Why does this movie not respect the deaf enough to subtitle the songs. The songs in this movie I assume were chosen because the lyrics were relevant to the story. Why not give the deaf the whole story.
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