|Still from Country Strong|
In what might more aptly be named Country Weak, Shana Feste-written and directed Musical Drama Country Strong falls short of expectations. Misleadingly advertised as something resembling a heart-warming story of fictitious Country singer Kelly Canter's (Gwyneth Paltrow) return to triumph from a battle with Depression and Alcoholism, the finished product is about as empty as its defeated Heroine's soul. There is little to root for here in Kelly as her character is written so thinly and one-dimensional that Paltrow's best efforts to bring her to life prove futile.
Country Strong follows Kelly after she suffers a Miscarriage from a fall on-stage while performing drunk in Houston, at five months pregnant. Managed by Husband James (Tim McGraw), her marriage is on-the-rocks with her having an obvious affair with hired-hand and aspiring Musician Beau (Garrett Hedlund). All the while, James takes beautiful and talented Beauty Queen Chiles (Leighton Meester) under his wing, threatening Kelly's place as his lover and Country Music's Darling also. Beau and Chiles follow the troubled singer on her ill-fated Tour one year later, realizing their own attraction to one another, as Kelly hopes to make amends for her disgraced Houston performance, all the while trying to overcome her own demons.
It is hard to decipher what we are supposed to focus on in Country Strong; there are competing story lines. Even though on paper the focus would appear to be Kelly, somehow we forget that she's the Star with so much of the story being delegated to Beau and Kelly's looming romance and budding musical careers. Meanwhile, we're given v. little insight to what has caused her Depression and dependence on Alcohol. McGraw, despite putting on yet another strong performance here, is given little to work with other than giving orders to an incapacitated Kelly or evoking silent anger in his Wife's affair with Beau.
In what culminates as a soapy Renter, Sony Screen Gems' Country Strong could have been great with a better Screenplay. One cannot blame the Principal Cast members here as they all put in some honest work and despite a few genuinely touching moments supplied by Paltrow in her carefully-studied musical performances, this one is hard to recommend. The Musical Drama is now in theatres country-wide. Grade: C