Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw,
Garrett Hedlund, Leighton
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 117 minutes
Distributor: Screen Gems/Sony Pictures
Director: Shana Feste
Executive Producer: Meredith Zamsky
Producer: Jenno Topping, Tobey Maguire
Writer: Shana Feste
Address Comments To:Michael Lynton, Chairman/CEO
Amy Pascal, Chairman - Motion Picture Group
Sony Pictures Entertainment
(Columbia Pictures/TriStar/Screen Gems/Provident/Triumph Films)
10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
Phone: (310) 244-4000
Fax: (310) 244-2626
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com/
The movie opens with James, the husband of country music star Kelly Canter, getting his wife released early from alcohol rehab. He does this against the objections of her “sponsor” and secret lover, Beau Hutton, a budding country music artist himself.
James wants to hire beauty queen Chiles Stanton to be the opening act for his wife in her new tour, but Chiles has a bad case of stage fright. Beau tries, however, to help her get over it, so James hires them both for the tour. He also wants Beau to help make sure Kelly stays away from the alcohol endangering her red-hot career and ruining her marriage.
As the barely rehabbed Kelly stumbles along, the real reason for her suicidal depression and reliance on alcohol comes out. Then, Beau starts falling for Chiles, which seems to make things worse for Kelly. Can she recover in time for the big show planned for Dallas, where her last really big alcohol-soaked performance drove her into rehab in the first place?
The main message of COUNTRY STRONG is that fame and love can’t really co-exist at all. The movie’s definition of love is a Romantic one, however, not a Christian, biblical definition centered on Jesus Christ. Also, the movie’s definition of art, in this case country music, is also Romantic.
Thus, the movie, especially Beau, who’s the actual hero, says that true artists are supposed to completely shun the limelight, even if their art is beautiful enough to draw huge, happy crowds of cheering fans. Also, the movie seems to say that people in love, who may or may not get married, always should be completely focused on each other in an emotional, mindless, amoral psychological way.
Making matters worse is that Kelly keeps getting depressed and alcoholic in the story. Also, her husband keeps withdrawing from her, even when it looks like they could heal their relationship and renew their love. Eventually [spoiler alert], this troubled couple cannot overcome their past, which includes the accidental death of an unborn daughter. On the other hand, [spoiler alert] it looks like Chiles may get over her lust for fame so she can be with Beau, who wants to withdraw from the big country crowds and does. Thus, the movie is sometimes depressing and sometimes happy, though often not happy in a way that would make anyone want to cheer. Only when someone sings does the movie seem to soar.
Of course, all this doesn’t make for a convincing or satisfying whole, despite some great singing, music, acting, and lyrics. Also, despite the excellent country music featured, COUNTRY STRONG provides a very jaundiced view of that industry, with very little of the patriotism and Christian worship that has come to symbolize a major part of it. In fact, broken marriages, promiscuity, adultery, and suicide are big topics throughout COUNTRY STRONG, but there are no truly redemptive conclusions reached about these topics. And, the positive title song, sung very well by Gwyneth Paltrow, is completely denied and undercut by the ending of her character’s story. The fact that viewers don’t get to really hear how well her character can sing until the end also undercuts the plot, not to mention viewer sympathy for the movie’s biggest star.
All in all, therefore, although COUNTRY STRONG may be right to question the desire for fame and celebrity and features some excellent acting and music, its very bittersweet ending, immoral content, Romantic delusions, and foul language make for a confused, unsatisfying, ultimately incoherent time at the movies. Skip the movie and buy the soundtrack instead.
COUNTRY STRONG’s main message is that fame and love can’t co-exist. The movie’s definition of love is Romantic and emotional, however, not a biblical definition centered on Jesus Christ. The movie’s definition of art, in this case country music, is also Romantic. Ultimately, despite some great acting and music, the movie is overwhelmed with a very bittersweet ending, immoral content, Romantic delusions, and plenty of foul language. This makes for a confused, unsatisfying time at the movies. People will want to buy the soundtrack instead.