“Country Strong” Good Enough

Genres: Drama and Musical/Performing Arts
Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.
Release Date: December 22nd, 2010 (limited); January 7th, 2011 (wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements involving alcohol abuse and some sexual content.
Distributors: Screen Gems

Director: Shana Feste

JJ Rating: B+

See it again: Maybe.
Own it: Maybe.
Recommend it to: Those that like country music and enjoy simple storylines.

Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow) is in rehab for drinking. Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund) is her sponsor and they spend a lot of time together on music. James Canter (Tim McGraw) removes her from rehab early to go on tour. Beau and a rising star Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester) are invited to go as well. What happens when you remove someone out of rehab early? Country Strong.

I feared this film would be the first craptastic film I’d see in Crapuary. However, to my semi-surprise it wasn’t. It had a twist of heart packed with great music. Yes, I like country music. No I don’t care if you think it’s poo or if you think new country is popish. I don’t have time to deal with music snobs. Music snobs are easily found when they say something “sucks” that’s an instant music snob. Same with movie snobs. Sucks is not a term of someone that is not a snob. Suck is a term used by those that lack the knowledge in how to express their dislike. They’ll say they don’t feel like expanding, but that just more snobbish. It’s like someone saying OMG I dislike black people, but I’m not racist. Double whammy. Yes, that’s a rant. I can’t rant on a forum about what I think, so I will rant about it here in my reviews.

Country Strong has a big heart. Its intent was to have an all-encompassing heart. The problem was the story wasn’t strong enough to withstand that expectation. The actors held up their end of the bargain and the director held up hers, but the script crapped out. The powerful words and scenes that were necessary to pull off what it intended didn’t happen as well as it could have. In addition, that trailer was totally edited off the mark. It set up an entirely different movie.

It’s been a while since a soundtrack has urged me to buy it. I bought Inception, TRON and The Social Network but they were more for the scores. This buy for Country Strong was for the songs. The songs were as twangy as twangy could be and reminded me a lot dusty country (old dusty) and I like it a lot. It’s great to listen to because with heart.

Gwyneth Paltrow sang well. Her acting was peppy and sad. The picture above is from one of my favorite scenes. The connection between Paltrow and the kid was great. So small a moment, but so powerful a feeling. She made me feel for her character. Tim McGraw is different in this film than he has been in others. He’s mean and doesn’t get what he needs to do to fix the situation. He cries in a few scenes and it’s not a blubbering moment. His crying is powerful and more in the overall look instead of just tears. Great job doing that. Again, he doesn’t sing, but on the soundtrack, he sings a song with Paltrow. Garrett Hedlund’s character is different from TRON because here he’s more a soft-spoken country singer who just wants things to be simple. I cannot decide how great an actor he is. He’s decent and he sings country really well. I was surprised. Leighton Meester I’ve seen on “Gossip Girl” and she’s a mean character, but in Country Strong, she’s a semi-confident singer who is less sure of herself than she allows people to see. She also sings really well and her duet with Hedlund is great. Her acting is awesome. I forgot she was a punk of a girl on a forgotten TV show I no longer watch.

A touching moment in a film hasn’t happen in a while. The above picture is a picture of that touching moment. Paltrow sings a song there and that song is on the soundtrack. I relive that moment every time I hear the song. It’s a great. Country Strong uses country songs in a powerful manner. It helps with emotional memory. Hear the song, feel the emotion and remember the scene. I love the soundtrack and have listened to it a lot. I like Country Strong as a film.

Country Strong reminds me of A Walk to Remember in the cliché area and how it moved the audience far more than it moved the critics. A Walk to Remember is the better film. I can understand why people don’t like it. The same reason I can understand not liking Country Strong, but my point is there’s that same emotional simpleness. Something that appears simple to like, critics pounce on to hate. They shred it while audiences embrace it. Yahoo Movie viewers give Country Strong a B+, but IMDB gives it a 5.2. However, people on IMDB like City of God one of the worst films ever made. It’s like watching fake reality spew negative across the screen in an attempt to do nothing but show people that people live in a bad place. I can see people living in a bad place when I drive down the street and homeless persons are sleeping on a dirty mattress in the cold. I don’t need a movie to point it out with characters that are worse than Hitler…at least Hitler loved his mother. I hate that movie. Hate. I’d give it a zero if it were possible.

Reel myself in from that tangent…Country Strong is not a film for everyone, but it is a great country film. It’s hard to determine if I’d own it. The acting, the characters and the songs were great for me. Technically that’s good enough.

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