A weak drink – Country Strong review

Country Strong – Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw and Leighton Meester. Directed by Shana Feste. Rated M. By Hilary Simmons.

Admit it. Y’all jus’ couldn’t wait to see Gwyneth Paltrow as a deep-Southern country-crooner with substance abuse issues embarking on a career comeback after an alcohol-induced miscarriage and high-profile stint in rehab. No? Well, if the woes of a warbling, weeping washed-up star don’t set your mechanical bull a-buckin’, then you may want to give this cornball melodrama a miss.

The obvious mistake of writer-director Shana Feste is her failure to actually give Country Strong a strong plot. Throughout the film, there is a soap-operatic dedication to the cliché that women and success don’t mix; that there is always a mascara-molten conflict between career and love. The self-destructive Kelly (a bottle-bronzed Ms. Paltrow) must choose between despair and desire; in a narrative this thick with distaff stereotypes and stomach-churning platitudes, I don’t need even to hint which way she goes.

Retrieved from rehab early for a three-date concert tour by her husband and manager, James (Tim McGraw), Kelly tosses back a few too many whiskies, twangs serviceably for fans and media types, and imparts some questionable wisdom to purrty beauty queen Chiles (Leighton Meister), next in line for the country ‘n’ western crown.

Given that it is clear from the outset that Kelly will eventually stage a successful comeback, Country Strong fails to deliver much in the way of suspense, although there is a weak twist at the end of the film. Presumably its strength is to be found in Kelly’s conclusion that all the superstar stage success in the world is not worth the solo sobbing jags… dang it, did I just give away the ending? Country Strong’s well acted but weak in almost every other respect. It reinforces the popular notion that in Hollywood, the only successful woman is a desperately unhappy woman – which incidentally contradicts the title.


Country Strong arrives on DVD and Blu-ray September 7, 2011.

2 Responses to “A weak drink – Country Strong review”

  1. Hey Hilary Simmons, how about you review the movie and not give away it’s plot or ending. Some people may want to see the moview for what it is! With you givieing it away like you have done, you’re not just a bad sport but also not a very impartial person to review for this site!

    IMHO review the movie and leave your personal bias at the door!

    • Hey Anthony. I can assure you that Hilary didn’t give away the ending to Country Strong (believe me), so you can rest easy. Also – reviewing a film without a “personal bias” is impossible. That’s what makes discussion about films so much fun – everyone has their own opinion. Please do check out the film and be sure to report back and share your thoughts on it. We genuinely do like a good-natured back-and-forth over these kinds of things 🙂

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