Wednesday, January 12, 2011
When I first read a very SPOILER-HEAVY review from one of my favorite blogs, I was prepared to watch this movie and come back to my computer with the title "Country Strong, Plot Weak." Although it doesn't happen often, I DO love tearing movies and televisions shows apart, so I was excited for this.
But then I saw it. And I loved it. The story follows country superstar Kelly Cantor (Gwyneth Paltrow) as she leaves rehab to begin a multi-city tour to revamp her image. During her last pre-rehab concert, she fell off of the stage in a drunk stupor, losing her unborn baby. While in rehab, she meets a young musician, Beau (Garrett Hedlund). Although she is married, she forms a relationship with him. When the tour begins, she convinces her husband/manager James (Tim McGraw) to bring Beau on tour as her opening act. James agrees, and also brings former beauty queen Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester) as another opener. As Kelly's comeback doesn't go as planned, Chiles and Beau are quickly rising to fame and relationships between all four are tested.
While some are calling it poorly scripted and all-over the place, I did not think this, at all. Instead, I saw real depth in these characters that may come across as poorly planned to some. Sometimes Kelly was trying to make it work with her husband, and other times she was kissing on Beau. I don't take this as a sign of weak writing, I see it as a confused woman who was pulled from rehab too early, miserable with her life and not knowing what it will take to make herself happy again. However, there is one thing I agree with in the poor reviews: the ending. While I won't spoil it, I will say that the last fifteen minutes or so comes practically out of nowhere... and while shocking endings may work flawlessly in other movies (Black Swan), it seems forced here.
What the real problem is, though, is because of nasty reviews and small audiences, the lesser known stars of this movie, who outshined the headliners, still didn't get their chance to build upon their fame. It's the opposite of what happens in the film - in the movie, Beau and Chiles quickly climb the fame ladder while Kelly's fans become more and more disappointed in her. In reality, this movie could have taken Hedlund and Meester, who are phenomenal both acting-wise and musically, to the next level, but because of previously mentioned reviews and dwindling audiences, may not get that chance from this film. It also doesn't help that any publicity needed for this movie is given to Paltrow: Glee cameos, SNL hosting gigs, talk show appearances... I get it - Gwyneth is the lead. But she's good and we know that already. Give the opportunity to shine to someone who deserves it (and possibly needs it): Meester or Hedlund.
You may be reading this and saying, "But Leighton Meester is already famous!" Is she, though? Sure, I love her more than anyone, I've had this movie and The Roommate's release dates on my calendar since they were announced, and I flock to the theaters to see any movie she's in, no matter how small the role (I'm talking to you, Date Night...) She's famous NOW in the tween, and gay men, world (Thanks to Gossip Girl), but does she have staying power? I think so, but the world doesn't know it yet. Fans don't even know her name... while a preview for The Roommate showed before Country Strong, girls behind me yelled, "Blair Waldorf is in this movie, too!!!" And while it was nice to hear other people are excited for that movie, it hurt my heart to hear this so-called fans not even call her by name... What should have been her vehicle to more mature, serious roles ended up being a movie that was overly-ripped apart and under-viewed. And while it's one of the movies I'm most excited for in 2011, I'm not sure her next movie will get her name in Oscar buzz, either..
If you can't make it out to see Country Strong, or if you can but choose not to because of things you've heard, do yourself a favor and at least pick up the soundtrack. While I've never been a big fan of country music, the three leads of this movie (Paltrow, Hedlund, and Meester) do a great job transforming themselves into country stars. If you don't want to buy the whole soundtrack, download these standout tracks:
Summer Girl - Leighton Meester
Give In To Me - Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester
Coming Home - Gwyneth Paltrow
Words I Couldn't Say - Leighton Meester
A Little Bit Stronger - Leighton Meester
Movie Grade: B
Soundtrack Grade: A