Friday, January 7, 2011

Movie Review: Country Strong

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The first full weekend of 2011! At least we had two selections available unlike last weekend! Choices: Country Strong or Season of the Witch. It was a tough decision. Nick Cage and Ron Perlman looked kinda hokey in their preview. I'm not a super huge fan of country music either. So the deciding criteria this week was the earlier film and one that would earn me extra movie points which meant the country music was awarded my attendance!

Gwyneth Paltrow has been showing her musical chops over the past few months with her appearance at the Country Music Awards show and her role on Glee. This allowed her to play six time Grammy Award winning singer Kelly Canter. Like a lot of music superstars (and many not so super) she's in rehab after having an alcoholic meltdown in Dallas. James her husband/manager (Tim McGraw) decides to pull her out a month early. You watch the two look and talk to each other and you wonder why he pulled her out. While laying in bed next to each other she says to him "I got a Brazilian" and his response is "I just took an Ambien, see you in eight hours". Not the normal take on "not tonight honey, I have a headache." So why did he pull her out: for him, for her, for the music or for the money?

Befriending her at the rehab center was Beau, a local country singer/song writer who was an employee there. The formerly clean shaven Tron: Legacy star Garrett Hedlund is transformed into the scruffy looking orderly by day, local country singer heartthrob at night. Kelly wants Beau to come on her comeback tour as an opening act. James on the other hand wants the former Miss Dallas beauty queen Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester) to be the opening act. So a compromise is hit and they both go on the three city tour with the final stop being Dallas itself. What better location to pick yourself up and dust yourself off other than the scene where you fell off the bucking bronco in the first place!

This is where the story gets messy. There are a number of cliches that follow. Both up and coming stars Beau and Chiles are making tough decisions about their future. The superstar who wants to remain on top but may be washed up but hoping for a come back. Wow, that last one sounds like Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, doesn't it? People around the star enabling them and their bad habits. Sleeping around in order to get what you want. These earned the film a PG-13 rating for thematic elements involving alcohol abuse and some sexual content. Was Beau there to get ahead in music, to save the old star or get the new one was murky at best. Same sort of questions with Chiles. Was her intention to get James, a career or Beau? There are too many more to mention. As I said it was messy.

The singing in the movie seemed good. Apparently Hedlund grew up around country music and was excited to play the part for the movie. McGraw who played Hedlund's father in 2004's Friday Night Lights let Hedlund stay on his ranch near Nashville in order to get Hedlund ready for the role. Meester also did a respectable job. After the big appearances last year, we know Paltrow has pipes that can do the country twang required of the role. What I thought was funny is that the one true country star among them, McGraw, didn't sing. I take that back, he did, but in the end credits, not as part of the film.

There was one major surprise in the film that I didn't totally see coming but for the most part, I sat in my seat for the 112 minutes, not really bored, but not excited about what was in front of me. Towards the end when Paltrow was giving a medley I wondered how many more songs I would have to wait through for the drama to start up again. Maybe if I was a big country fan my response would be different for the music and the movie.

The Movie Monkey

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