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Country Strong Reviews

Page 1 of 85
Nicki M

Super Reviewer

November 15, 2011
I'm not really into country music, and there's plenty of it here, but I still enjoyed this one. I never really got why people are so nasty about Gwyneth as an actress - I'm not a huge fan, but I have always found her reasonably convincing on screen. Here she's really quite a sad figure as a country singer on a downward spiral - sort of how you can see Britney heading if she doesn't watch out! Leighton Meester is also good as an up and coming young singer. As is Garrett Hedlund - I have never seen him in anything else, but he is good here. The characters are all well written, and though it is almost two hours, it never feels all that long or like it is dragging. (Except maybe in the country singing parts, but on the whole, that is not too bad, and for some, it would probably be a plus!).
There's not a huge story here, and I can't see it appealing to everyone, but I liked it.

Super Reviewer

September 16, 2010
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Garrett Hedlund, Leighton Meester, Tim McGraw, Alana Grace, Ed Bruce, Jeffrey Buckner Ford, Jeremy Childs, Marshall Chapman

Director: Shana Feste

Summary: While out on tour to revive her stalled career, once-popular country singer Kelly (Gwyneth Paltrow) falls for emerging newcomer Beau (Garrett Hedlund) and tries desperately to hide their burgeoning romance from her ever-present husband and manager, Ed (Tim McGraw). Written and directed by Shana Feste, this musical drama co-stars Leighton Meester as a former beauty queen trying to break out as a songstress.

My Thoughts: "In all I liked the movie, but the script just felt unfinished. Just not developed very well at all. There were some great moments in the film but it can't make up for the mess the script was. The acting was good by most. Tim McGraw is really surprising me with his acting skills, thought he was good. I still can't bring myself to care much for Gwyneth Paltrow's acting. I did on the other hand enjoy Leighton Meester's acting along with Garrett Hedlund. I thought they were good on screen together and had great chemistry. They both have good singing voices as well. Gwyneth just wasn't convincing for me as a country singer nor as an addict. The film does try to shed light on how troubled your soul can get from having such a demanding career. There were things I liked and things I didn't, but in the end the film wasn't as put together as the trailers made you believe it was. The best thing about the film was the music. So watch it just for that if not anything else."
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2011
Strong cast. I enjoyed the music portions, even though I am not a country music fan. I am, however, a Gwyneth fan. I think that she is a wonderful actress, and adds alot to every role she plays. Garrett Hedlund was much so that I found myself googling him. Tim McGraw..well. eh..someone else better could have done his part. But, all in all, a very good film.

Super Reviewer

December 22, 2010
I have never been a huge fan of country music, but this film completely changed my vision of it. You do not need to like country music to like this film, and I have no clue what the critics are crying about, but this film is wonderful! Yes, the story of an ex-rehab country singer making a comeback is in no way original, but combining all of the subplots, the fantastic acting by the entire cast, and the amazing romance filled lyrics, Country Strong comes out on top as a film that I could watch over and over again. This is the most underrated film of 2011 so far. With emotionally charged romance, a script that moves this basic story into perfection, music to cry over, and a cast that will have you cheering, this film is a very "strong" film. It left me in tears, but not enough that I couldn't have a smile of how well paced everything was. Country Strong came out of nowhere, and it is a shame that not many people will end up seeing it. I love this movie!

Super Reviewer

April 22, 2011
This film was so borrriiinnnggg. Its long, uninteresting, and nothing happens. The music was nice, but pther than that this is a pretty pathetic film.
Fernando Rafael Q

Super Reviewer

December 24, 2010
Beautiful country music and a charming cast are paired with cheesy, poor writing (although quite charming and touching at times). It's a little sad to see such a talented cast struggle against the god-awful script by Shana Feste, where plot holes abound. The cast is certainly impressive: while Gwyneth Paltrow is inconsistent, country superstar Tim McGraw proves he's also a pretty good actor. Garrett Hedlund steals the show (after being utterly wasted in TRON: Legacy) and Leighton Meester shines both as an actress and a singer. The soundtrack is way better than the muddled, flaky story.

Super Reviewer

January 21, 2011
It doesn't matter where you've been as long as you come back strong.

Not bad at all. It had a good story and some good acting. More than what I expected and that's always good.

A drama centered on a rising country-music songwriter (Hedlund) who sparks with a fallen star (Paltrow). Together, they mount his ascent and her comeback, which leads to romantic complications involving her husband/manager (McGraw) and a beauty queen-turned-singer (Meester).
Bill D 2007
Bill D 2007

Super Reviewer

January 29, 2011
"Country Strong" is not a great film, but it's a wonderful movie. Sure, it's a television-level script directed like a TV movie. Sure, it's at times schmaltzy and conventional as all get out. But like great country music, "Country Strong" is both superficial and in touch with deep wellsprings of feeling. It may be over-simplified, but it's also profoundly in touch with the kinds of things everyone struggles with in life. Young writer/director Shana Feste will never be mistaken for an intellectual and probably will never win Oscars (or even be nominated), but she demonstrates a Spielberg-esque mastery of conventional filmmaking that could catapult her to the big leagues. She is a filmmaker to watch.

Gwyneth Paltrow, in one of the biggest casting surprises in years, does a wonderful job playing a country-music superstar just beginning to show signs of age. She sings on her own, but more importantly, Paltrow pulls off the acting in a compelling and seemingly effortless way. It's impressive that at this stage in her career she would stretch herself in exciting new ways. Also surprising is the casting of Leighton Meester as Paltrow's young rival. How does one go from "Gossip Girl" to country music and pull both of them off? All indications are that Meester will have a huge career in the movies. She's a natural.

Rounding out the cast are singer/actor Tim McGraw ("The Blind Side"), playing Paltrow's husband and manager, and up-and-coming actor Garrett Hedlund ("Troy," "Four Brothers") as Paltrow's May-December boyfriend.

At the start of the movie, we meet the childless Kelly Canter (Paltrow) as she's getting out of rehab. She has just had some sort of breakdown in public that jeopardizes her career, and her husband (McGraw) is trying to orchestrate a comeback tour for her. She wants the young singer she met in rehab (Hedlund) to be her opening act, but he wants a young female singer (Meester) to open.

Gradually, we learn more about this complex marriage. Feste does a great job conveying how much they love each other but also reveals the difficulty they have sleeping together. Feste has a gift for exploring the ocean of feelings that can occur in the bedroom. Nothing can cut you in half like a lover who continually turns his head when you try to kiss him. In many ways this marriage is over. But in many other ways it's as strong as ever. What does one do in that situation?

One of the major sub-plots concerns the development of Canter's young rival, Chiles Stanton (Meester). At first, she's intensely insecure and almost incapable of singing on stage, but with a little coaching from Hedlund her performances begin to soar. One of the most beautiful moments in the film is when Stanton starts to realize that she has touched an audience of thousands. She is at first almost knocked over by their applause, not understanding it. But then it dawns on her what is really going on. This scene has such tenderness that it reduced me and many of those around me to tears.

Another sub-plot centers on Canter's alcoholism, which is severe. We watch her go through several painful relapses, which do become a bit tiresome cinematically. Finally, there's a huge melodrama at the end that goes way over the top, weakening the film. But my companion and I walked out remembering the wonderful parts of the movie and the great music. This made us feel like we were walking on air. Sometimes it's a non-intellectual movie that hits the spot like nothing else can.

Super Reviewer

January 9, 2011
Structurally and in terms of character and story development, Country Strong is a mess. Almost none of the characters' actions is motivated, including the cheap, horridly maudlin ending. Normally, in bad films like these, we look for good performances to save the day, but though McGraw actually impressed me with his emotional range and Hedlund is probably considered dreamy by 50% of the population, everybody else, including Paltrow, doesn't do much to impress. There were moments of Paltrow's concert scenes when the character experiences an emotional release, but I suspect that Gwynnie simply didn't have the lungs for it.
Considering all I've said thus far, you'd expect a lower review than two stars. One star is for one scene, which lasts about three minutes out of the 112, but it is truly good. Kelly visits a child dying of leukemia, and the interaction between these two broken souls who are trying to hold on to hope is quite touching. If only there were a market for three-minute short films, this would have been incredible.
Overall, one good moment and a dreamy heart-throb does not a movie make. Avoid this emotionally manipulative failure.
Rico Z

Super Reviewer

January 8, 2011
Gwyneth Paltrow can definitely sing. It seems that this movie is more of a vehicle to showcase her vocal talents; as opposed to those of her acting. Plot-wise, this is definitely a retread of last year's far-superior Crazy Heart. Except Country Strong is artificial, saccharine and over-the-top. Not once did I feel a shred of sympathy for Paltow's character (a washed-up country singer recovering from a career-crippling addiction to alcohol.) Maybe the real-life coverage of countless celebrities who have gone through this familiar story has desensitized me; but I felt that, by the end of the film, none of the characters had really learned anything or changed for the better. Not that that's always a requirement for a satisfying ending. Still, the way in which the audience is blatantly manipulated with soap-opera theatrics is too much to handle. For a film that is meant to get us to cheer along with a song in our hearts, it ultimately delivers nothing more than a killer soundtrack. Skip the movie, download the songs!
Bradley W

Super Reviewer

December 2, 2011
This film was so borrriiinnnggg. Its long, uninteresting, and nothing happens. The music was nice, but pther than that this is a pretty pathetic film.
Glenn G

Super Reviewer

January 28, 2011

God have there been better country music films than this. NASHVILLE comes first to mind, as this film apes the famous "breakdown on stage" scene here. Peter Bogdonavich's THE THING CALLED LOVE, while a mess, felt more lived-in. CRAZY HEART made you believe in the characters and the songs. This one? Despite the truly engaging performances, feels like a bunch of chess pieces being moved on a board to suit the whims of the screenwriter. Characters are thrown together for no believable reason and then they move on to someone else and so on.

A story of rising and falling stars, COUNTRY STRONG seems to exist to give Gwyneth Paltrow a chance to sing, which she does quite well, and to garner an Oscar nomination...which did not happen. Then the writing "committee" decided she needed to cry a lot, throw things, crouch down to her knees in backstage closets and wail about her messed-up life. Paltrow is a wonderful actor, and certainly does some fine work here, but she battles a hopeless script and lethargic directing.

Enter Garrett Hedlund as her rehab buddy (and secret LOVER!) to try to keep her on her toes as her marriage to her MANAGER(!) implodes. What's missing you say? How about a young little Eve Harrington who wants to steal Paltrow's career and MAN!?! The 25 plots keep getting in the way of the engaging actors. Leighton Meester and Hedlund do some fine work here, as does Tim McGraw in the criminally underwritten role of the husband/manager/possible cheater/opportunist/all-around good guy. Huh?? And all of those endings? There seemed to be 7 or 8 of them, and this ain't no Tolkein saga.

I was originally gonna call this article, COUNTRY WEAK, because I didn't think the film deserved a more clever insult. So yeah, I'm gonna change the title if I get around to it someday. Kind of like how Shana Feste must have approached the writing and directing of this bizarre little stinker.
Sean G

Super Reviewer

January 17, 2011
Surpisingly good. Twist ending?
Dannielle A

Super Reviewer

July 5, 2011
If this movie had a different cast I think I'd be bored out of my mind.. but Gwyneth Paltrow is captivating and Garrett Hedlund makes even a country music hater become a die hard fan. The story follows an alcoholic country star who is struggling with a marriage that is falling apart. There are some tender moments where I think everything is going to get better. Paltrow captures the moment perfectly... the emotion on her face tells everything- she is overjoyed to be in his arms again and feel loved.

The soundtrack to this movie is INCREDIBLE. The story suffered a little bit and could have been better but it was still decent.
Patrick H.
Patrick H.

Super Reviewer

May 25, 2011
Country music film has enjoyable songs; not enjoyable characters

Hollywood has always been doing movies about someone having an alcohol or drug addiction and the struggles that a person goes through as well as overcome it. The premise for these movies is always the same, the audience is given the back story of the character and how she got into this rut. The film will show some scenes where she loses control and gets nowhere in breaking away from her destructive addiction. Of course everyone watching is thinking, oh there is no way she can get back on her feet, but of course she does at the end. The new movie, "Country Strong" changes this story line and gives a dark story of reality of addicts who unfortunately don't always happy ending. I give the movie credit for doing this, but for me it lost major points for no likeable character, weak acting and an overall unorganized plot.
The story is about country music superstar Kelly Cantor; played by Gwyneth Paltrow (Ironman), who is released from rehab a month early by her dumb and insensitive husband/manager, James, played by Tim McGraw (The Blind Side). In order to get back her feet she plans out a comeback concert tour and wants to bring a aspiring country singer, Beau (pronounced Bo) Hutton, played by Garred Hedlund (Tron Legacy) to open for her shows. James, on the other hand, has a different thought and wants country pop star, Chiles Stanton, played by Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl). At the end of the debate, it is decided that the both of them will open the show together. After numerous failed concerts, everyone is thinking if Kelly is able to pull herself together to finish the tour.
Instead of going off on all the flaws the movie has, I mention a few of the things that I honestly enjoyed. The first promising sign was to give highly entertaining country songs. The film maintained this promise with great country songs. All of the songs were well thought out as they go perfectly with each character that sings one of the songs. I couldn't help but start taping my foot, move my head with the beat and mouth the words of the song with silent emotion. In relation to the great songs; the concert/bar performance scenes were really a diversion. What adds to these fun scenes is the performances of Paltrow, Hedlund and Meester.
Each actor puts his and her time into really getting into these songs and making each scene one of their own. Then, at the end, the audiences at Kelly's concerts and Beau's singing at bars start to jump up and down, sing along, and chanting Kelly and Beau's names out loud. All in all, everything in this key part of the film worked well. The category that made me deduct major points from "Country Strong" was how its characters were portrayed and how they aren't really likeable. The main thing that happens during the film which lead to my not liking the characters was the scandalous affair that went on between Cantor and Hutton.
It started at the very beginning just before the audience gets the true sense that there is a struggle between Kelly and her husband. I was so upset with Kelly that even though her husband was insensitive, they could have worked it out. To add more to this mess of unappealing characters, director Shana Feste (The Greatest) puts in this vague affair with James Cantor and Chiles Stanton. Feste, to me was just making this film less and less enjoyable. If you're a fan of country music then you won't be disappointed. The songs are quite catchy and you will be humming them on your car ride home. The other aspects of the picture aren't directed very well, especially the likeness of the characters, which leads me to award only two out of four popcorn bags.

Super Reviewer

January 23, 2011
Garret Hedlund is the best reason to watch this film. He steals every scene that he is in. He is much better here than in Tron Legacy. He should have been good in that film like he is in this film. The film is not like Walk the Line or Crazy Heart. Those were better films than this one. This one reminded me of the River Pheonix film, The Thing Called Love.

The film feels uneven. It feels like 2 movies are going on at the same time and not connecting. The trailer is also a little misleading. Gwyneth does a good job here but she is more of a supporting role next to Garret. Garret opens the film and ends the film with him. Tim McGraw also did a good job too in this film. Last time him and Garrett were in a film, was Friday Night Lights. Leighton Meester also does a good job. The tone of the film is off. The film did need a rewrite. I did like the songs that are in the film. The film is overall worth checking out for Garrett's performance and the songs in the film.
Jeff B.
Jeff B.

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2011
If music fans were to play a country song backwards, the singer would get their wife, house, and dog back...or so the old joke colorfully goes. If moviegoers were to watch Country Song backwards, however, they would find their faith in good filmmaking restored...and sadly, this is no joke. Oh, it's not as if the premise didn't hold strong potential. Similar stories have worked for C&W Oscar winners like Tender Mercies and Crazy Heart. In fact, Country Strong's casting and soundtrack stand and deliver. The script, on the other hand, should be used in Screenwriting 101 courses as a lesson in what NOT to do when writing believable award-baiting dramas. As corny as a Hee Haw hoedown, this soap operatic hurdy gurdy simply misses the mark by a country mile.

In this PG-13-rated drama, an unstable country star (Paltrow) goes on a post-rehab tour with her manipulative husband/manager (McGraw), a young beauty-queen-turned-singer (Leighton Meister), and songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) along to witness the train wreck.

If the movie's trailer and promotional synopsis are to be believed, Paltrow is the star attraction. Her character, however, often comes second to two warbling lovebirds played by Meister and Hedlund (if Paltrow WERE to get an Oscar nomination, a Supporting Actress nod might be more appropriate). If writer/screenwriter Shana Feste can't find the story's center, than the audience definitely has little hope. Poor editing and a long running time will only hamper their search. What's worse, the last act takes a preposterously over-the-top turn that'll leave moviegoers' blue eyes crying in the rain.

Bottom line: Country wrong.

Super Reviewer

January 18, 2011
Gwenythn Paltrow plays the role of an aging out of rehab country star Kelly Canter and with the help of Tim McGraw as her manager/ husband go through the struggles of returning to fame along with Leighton Meester and Garrett HedLund (who I previously liked in TRON: Legacy). It's a classic comeback story with twists and turns that illuminate the dramas we all face in life but if you `re expecting another "feel good" movie then you will be disappointed. Paltrow is believable as a fragile singer, Leighton Meester is great as her role as a young hopeful singer Chiles but oddly enough the true country star - Tim McGraw - never sings!
Christopher H

Super Reviewer

January 5, 2011
As melodramatic as this could have been, the overall quality of Country Strong was far from the horrible disaster that I anticipated it to be. Leighton Meester actually out acts Paltrow, as well as Garrett Hedlund out acting Tim McGraw. The story still gets very wishy-washy, never explaining key plot shifts and leaving the audience in the dark but the music holds up and "Coming Home" is truly a great song. I still see this as the female version of "Crazy Heart", except watered down and hardly the attraction that Jeff Bridges displayed.
Sarah P

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2011
I really liked this movie. I felt that all of the actors gave strong performances and I was really impressed with Gwyneth Paltrow. She's actually a great singer and gave everything a realness. Tragic as it was, I also thought the ending was very fitting.
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