What follows is an endorsement of the Gwyneth Paltrow film Country Strong, a movie I was very apprehensive about enjoying. The film turned out to be surprisingly not as bad as I thought it would be. The degree of its not being as horrid as I thought has inspired this affirmation.
Country music can be a fickle mistress. She teases with lyrics of a festive life, filled with dogs, watermelon dances, seeing one’s mother after her incarceration. But she will also remind us of life’s hardships, including infidelity, watermelon dances and death by getting runned over by a damned old train. While I do find a few of the songs catchy or some of the female singers nice to view, I have never felt the music described my lifestyle or a lifestyle I was particular to.
Several outside influences have been considered in this review. One must take into account the state of mind present when viewing the film. No danger or odd circumstances surrounded the atmosphere of our den; we were at peace with the world and in love with each other as we watched Country Strong together, my wife and I.
Gwenyth Paltrow stars as Kelly Canter, a country superstar being released from rehab one year after falling from the stage in Dallas, a city which will haunt and redeem her, in a drunken stupor causing a miscarriage of her unborn baby. Garrett Hedlund plays the part of Beau Hutton, a young part time honky tonk singer cursed with a pitiful attempt at facial hair, with whom she has an affair. He is hired to join her on her return tour to keep an eye on her addictions. He is torn between Kelly and Chiles Stanton, played by Leighton Meester, a young girl whose success in country music is dependent upon her beauty. Tim McGraw stars as Kelly’s husband James, he pushes her as her manager but you can see right through his wig that that he has a hard time forgiving Kelly for losing their baby.
While Gwenyth never won an award for being considered sexy, as an example please refer to the unflattering evening gown worn in the movie poster, she gives an admirable portrayal of a much sexier woman. Namely Tim McGraw’s real wife, Faith Hill whose acting skills might outweigh the singing skills of Gwenyth. A conundrum aided by theory that Faith Hill fans may find the film to be documentary in nature and unleash their hatred for McGraw’s misgivings while at the same time confused by Faith’s appearances at later dates. I thought of Faith often during the movie. While the simplest of country music fans might be perplexed by Kelly’s behavior off stage, I believe superstars such as Faith might have watched the film from the comfort of their own luxuriously appointed RV, snacking on Xanax with a little vodka to help the pills go down easier, all the while screaming at the images on the screen “I hear ya girl, been there, done that!”
Like the country music, table mounted, whiny guitar instrument thing, melodrama is sporadic but hits the right chords, get it chords. It is not overpowering but you really notice how annoying it is during the solos. Melodrama could be lost on or misspelled by its intended audience, but it brought a smile to a non fan such as me. It was at those moments I imagined Faith drunkenly raising a bottle of vodka saying “Hell yes!” I know I did.
After viewing the film and telling a few friends about it I was informed that it was really a horribly reviewed movie. I don’t doubt it for a minute as it has been decades since I last saw Coal Miner’s Daughter, another film filled with country music songs. I feel different about this film. This film makes even me feel Country Strong.