Country Strong
PG-13
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: -4

Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, Leighton Meester. Written and directed by Shana Feste.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Queen Country singing sensation Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow, doing her own singing) just got out of rehab. Too much booze and not enough love. After an affair with a hospital orderly, she assigns him to open her show as they begin a tour through Texas. Meanwhile, her manager/husband likes a cute up-and-comer and wants her to open the show. On the road proves to be a mix of singing, drinking and butt-kicking.

PREVIEW REVIEW: It’s kind of a hit-and-miss for me. There are several moving and effective scenes, but they’re generally surrounded by cliché-riddled moments of melodrama. For me, I found Garrett Hedlund lacking in charisma. He’s another wannabe James Dean maverick, with a tobacco tin outlined in his real tight hip pocket, a scraggily beard on his cheeks that never seems to grow, and a “G--d---” on his lips when any disagreement arises. With a yodel in his heart, he’s all affectation. The character he plays is an adulterer and a liar, yet he’s the film’s hero, which should give you an idea of how self-absorbed and spiritually devoid these characters are.

What’s more, Hedlund (recently unmemorable in the annoying Tron: Legacy) is a mumbler. A cross between Marlon Brando and James Dean, without the star quality, he treats every line as if diction, like a razor for the scruffy whiskers, was unnecessary. Now, that’s just my opinion. Can’t speak for women. They may like a guy in a dirty hat (can someone tell me what those brown smudges are on his tan hat?) who shows up at a funeral dressed in new jeans from Sears and leans against his corroded pickup like he’s posing for a Marlboro ad.

For me the film’s strengths are Gwyneth Paltrow and a perceptive message about fame. Though she has to deal with a myriad of predictable situations and an occasional clunker of a line, Ms. Paltrow continues to marvel as an actor, and now a country-pop singer. She’s a beautiful woman and as talented as they get.

There’s also an interesting take on celebrity as the performers look out at adoring fans, feeding on the applause like a hungry tuna gobbling up schools of guppies. It becomes needed nourishment, but satisfies only as long as the proverbial Chinese dinner. The adulation of others is a quickly acquired taste, but as any pro with his head on straight will tell you, play for the coach/sing for the maestro/act for director, not the crowds. Though we must please those we are working for, the best way to keep a contented perspective is to seek the pleasure of our Creator.

DVD Alternative: Tender Mercies. Robert Duvall stars as a country western singer on the skids until a religious widow and her little boy take him in. Rated PG for some objectionable language in the beginning. But when the Christian woman has an effect on his life, out goes the profanity. Oscars went to Duvall and writer Horton Foote.

Coal Miner’s Daughter. Sissy Spacek won an Oscar for her portrayal of singer Loretta Lynn. Effective musical bio with Spacek getting strong support from Tommy Lee Jones as her husband. Rated PG, there is some language.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Screen Gems

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: Around 20 obscenities, mostly “b-s) and several minor expletives.
Profanity: Around 5 profane uses of God’s name and two of Christ’s – again, mostly from the film’s male lead.
Violence: Two fights, punches thrown.
Sexual Intercourse: Two sexual situations, others implied; each of these sexual encounters has to do with committing adultery.
Nudity: PG-13 nudity, where the camera roams around unclothed bodies
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Drug and alcohol abuse
Other: None
Running Time: 120 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and Up

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