A couple of weeks before its opening, Shana Festa's Country Strong was gaining hype. Gweneth Paltrow was making appearances on music awards shows left and right, and the film itself was being promoted as kind of a Country "All about Eve". Before viewing the film, I felt that this would be about the unbridled rivalry between an upcoming and fading star. Now that I have seen Country Strong, I realize how unfitting that description is. Country Strong is not really a film about the dying and replacing of a star but rather the process (and self-pitying) that comes with ressurecting one. This could've been an interesting film about today's country music scene. But Alas we are stuck with a group of unlikable characters, a screenplay that is more interested in slogging through unneeded melodrama and back stage cliches, and a floundering mess of a film.
If I could describe this film in one word it would be aimless. This film literally had absolutly no idea where it was going. The majority of this film is spent in 1 repititious cycle.
1)Someone plays a song
2)Kelly gets upset
3)Kelly gets better
4)Goes to different town
In between that we are given meaningless conversations, sparks between stars, and absolutly nothing insightful about life in the music business. I wasn't expecting Altman's "Nashville" but at least something a tad deeper then "who's going to fall in love with who" or "will Kelly triumph in the end". I will give this film credit for some good performances. The whole cast has singing talent, and some of these songs rise above CMT fare. My only problem with this is that the script doesn't do much to make us care about the singers behind the songs.
We want to like Kelly, Beau, James, and Chiles But this script doesn't know how to take them beyond one demension. Even in Kelly's most heartbreaking states, I could not feel sorry for her because this film refused to show us a side of her that wasn't selfish or shallow. The film doesn't want to go into detail about her alcohol abuse or rehab troubles, only wanting to skip to the heartwrenching scenes where Beau has to the tear the bottle away from her. All of the other characters try just as hard to win our hearts, except for Tim McGraw; who oddly reminds me of a supervillian here (his Kyle McLaughlin hairstyle says it all), But all of this comes to no avail.
Throughout Country Strong I kept hoping for interesting scenarios to happen, anything more interesting then this. Maybe James and Chiles could have an affair, or Beau could be pretending to swoon Kelly to raise his own stardom, or James ends up being a member of an evil conglomerate trying to hypnotize the world with country pop. Hell anything to break the long driven road we've all been on before. Not to mention the meandering string of endless backstage scenes and trips to each cast member's hotel rooms. There are a few shining moments here: The Make a wish foundation scene and the 4 second train sequence, but they are only mere reminders of Country Strong's lost potential. It is not the film about fame it was probably meant to be, it is a film about a famous woman who can't do anything but pity herself and the people around her who can't do anything but pity her.
That is what I received from this film anyways, many others will have different opinions. All I know is that this film didn't give me any new insights on fame or the country music scene. Instead it made me realize just how many times a storyline can be re-hashed before its dead. I will give it 2 stars for some good music, Beau's cover of "Silver Wings" was a hit for me. But overall the film was a misfire, and far from the Country "All About Eve" this film could've been. Trust me if there's anything this film needed, it was a few Eve Harringtons.
Overall rating: 2/5
Pros: Sub-Par Acting, Some good songs.
Cons: Cliches, Bad script, predictable, unlikeable characters, overall forgettable