"“It’s more Disney, than Dolly""
Country Strong is a film following three musicians on tour in America, yet, despite its initial plot, there is little sex, drugs and rock and roll, and instead more confusion, vodka and country music.
Based around the country music scene of Southern America, it follows the story of (fictional) the successful Grammy-winning musician Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow). Having spent time in rehab battling her alcohol addiction, the singer-songwriter is set for a return to the stage, as she begins a live tour. Meanwhile, Beau Hutton (Garrett Hudlund), who worked with Kelly at her rehabilitation clinic, is also a country musician himself, and with love in the air, she persuades the talented singer to open for her on tour.
However, Kelly’s husband and manager James, played by the genuine country musician Tim McGraw, is jealous of his wife’s attraction for Beau, and invites the delicate Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester) to also join them on their expedition.
Despite telling a quite interesting story of a damaged musician ready to return to the spotlight, alongside upcoming and aspiring musicians - where the feature falls short is in its romantic story-lines. Kelly is supposedly in love with both Beau and husband James, whilst James is also in love with Kelly, and fancies Chiles. Beau, on the other hand, allegedly loves both Kelly and Chiles, whilst Chiles just loves Beau. Hope I haven’t lost you on that one.
You just can’t tell or keep up with who loves who, and you can’t really figure out which character is being earnest and sincere when declaring their love and desire for someone – when they say it to more than one person. It’s okay for the characters themselves to be confused with love, but not the audience. It bears similarities in that respect to William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. Except within that play, the confusion is at least a result of supernatural causes. Country Strong can’t boast that, sadly.
The supposedly ‘key’ relationship is that of Kelly and Beau, as the two singers attempt to be together despite the best interests of Kelly’s long-term husband and devoted partner, James. But this is not one that I wanted to happen at all. In a romantic drama, you need to actually be rooting for the two lovers to get together at the end; that’s the point. However, James is a respectable man with a good beard whilst Beau is uninteresting and has a very inconsistent beard.
Kelly, a year previous to when the film is set, lost a baby when pregnant after falling off a stage drunk. James, however, being the faithful partner he is, sticks with his troubled wife, as his love for her is platonic and unconditional. You don’t want the poor bloke to be hurt, so instead you rebel against the impending relationship between Kelly and Beau, which isn’t really how it’s supposed to work.
The aspect of fame within the film also frustrated me. It looks upon the media circus following Kelly with legitimacy, but it doesn’t touch upon the potentially successful careers of both Beau and Chiles. They are supporting a very well-renowned and flourishing country artist and playing in front of tens of thousands of people at live shows, as opposed to previously playing in front of 30 people at a small bar in the middle of nowhere. The film doesn’t investigate this aspect at all, and the two characters don’t seem to care or discuss fame to any extent, which is just too unrealistic.
Also, as a film about music, Country Strong needs to be stronger with the actual music played by the artists within the film. Despite admiring both Hudlund’s and Paltrow’s voices, full of the southern twang which complements the genre greatly, the songs are weak, particularly those performed by Chiles. Meester, to be fair, isn’t too shabby as a country singer, as she combines her attractiveness with her ability to sing to good effect - but her songs are dire. Chiles is supposed to be a potential star with a bright future on the country scene, but her songs just weren’t country enough. They were more Disney, than Dolly.
You would think that with McGraw in the feature, a very highly-celebrated musician within his genre, the music would be enhanced as a result. But then again, he did perform a song with Nelly, which questions his validity on the matter somewhat.
I suppose this film isn’t really aimed at me. It’s more targeted at Women, and those into country music, and I am neither. Therefore, it’s only right to look at the film from a different perspective and search for positives within. The main being that of the impressive performance by Gwyneth Paltrow as Kelly, as she perfected the distressed and chaotic persona of a pop-star with a drug addiction, despite the fact it had the potential of being a casting blunder.
Aside from that, however, the film was too clichéd and had a few too many shortcomings. As I said, it’s not aimed at me so I shouldn’t really complain, but then again I don’t think that if I was a Woman, or a fan of country music for that matter, I’d like it too much either.