Movie Review: Country Strong

Movie – Country Strong

Director: Shana Feste (The Greatest)

Writer: Shana Feste (The Greatest)

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow (Se7en, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Royal Tenenbaums), Tim McGraw (The Blind Side, Flicka), Garrett Hedlund (Troy, Four Brothers, Tron: Legacy), and Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl, Date Night, The Roommate)

Theater – Cinemark Movies 12 – Ames, Iowa

Companion – Nader

Food – King Buffet

Intellectual Honesty

I like Gwyneth Paltrow. All things considered, I thought she would have had a slightly better career.

I also like it when the writer and the director are the same person. It helps me buy into the auteur theory and I really like that theory.


I really can’t stand new country music. I grew up listening to old country music and enjoy the works of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Sr. and Tom T. Hall (the first person I ever mention that name to and they instantly know the song Sneaky Snake – well there aren’t words for how I feel about that person). I can’t stand the warbling of any of the current country “musicians”.

I also thought that Tim McGraw was terrible in The Blind Side.

Synopsis from IMDB

A drama centered on a rising country-music songwriter (Hedlund) who sparks with a fallen star (Paltrow). Together, they mount his ascent and her comeback, which leads to romantic complications involving her husband/manager (McGraw) and a beauty queen-turned-singer (Meester).


I’m not into cleverly changing the name of the movie to reflect how I feel about it. I leave that to Nader, but considering the inevitable resolution to this movie, I think the title is a misnomer. Cliche Strong would be a good name.

Cliche Strong because this movie piles one country music cliche on top of another on top of another. I understand that this happens because country music (the current incarnation) is the least interesting and least creative form of music being created today. If you write a song about your dog and a beatup pickup truck I guarantee you that it will be “rocking” karaoke nights all across Boone County, but it is as about as intellectually stimulating as paying your water bill.

It seems like this movie is meant to be the girl power version of Crazy Heart, only in the end the girl isn’t overly empowered. It follows the story of an alcoholic country musician, the only difference being the location along the career arc for the musicians. Bridges’ Bad Blake was washed up. Paltrow’s Kanter is still a big star capable of selling out arenas. Despite the fact that she fell off a stage drunk, 5 months pregnant and lost her baby.

Crazy Heart is much deeper and the music is better. Country Strong paints its emotions with a wide brush and it feels like it would be right at home on the Hallmark Channel. For you middle aged women out there, that wasn’t a compliment.

Despite Crazy Heart having better music, Country Strong is at its best when you don’t have to listen to the cliche characters struggle through cliche dialogue. It is best when they are on stage performing. I particularly enjoy the songs by Hedlund’s Hutton. The title song is kind of week, but the climatic Coming Home isn’t bad and is the best of Paltrow’s songs.

Tim McGraw doesn’t sing once in the movie, but he gives the best performance. As milquetoast as his performance is in The Blind Side, he is really good at playing a multi-layered douchebag here. He isn’t all bad, but in the end, he is a douchebag that takes his wife out of rehab too early and forces her out on a tour that her sobriety isn’t able to sustain. When she gets drunk before the first stop on the tour, he doesn’t see this as a sign that she needs to go back to rehab. He just forces the tour on, hoping to cash a bigger check in the future. Rather than spending more time with her, he spends it with Meester’s Stanton. McGraw is really good as a nonsupportive-semisupportive husband.

Nothing else really stands out in this movie, except that you’ve seen it all before. Done better.

2.5/5.0 Caramels

Buy on DVD
I won’t, but I considered buying the soundtrack until I realized they had replaced some of the songs performed by the actors in the movie with Faith Hill and Sara Evans. Not digging it record execs.

2010 Ranking
One of the most mediocre of 2010. Like Star Wars, made bearable by good music.

Bonus Information

While at True Grit the trailer for Country Strong played. Baier leaned over and proclaimed that he would seize the Man Card of anybody that attended this movie. I told him exactly when and where I would be watching this movie. He must have decided he wasn’t man enough to try to seize my Man Card, because I am still in full possession of it.

This review officially catches me up on movie reviews. In the future, I plan to use Tuesdays as a look back at my personal archives of photos. I’m going to go through every folder on my hard drive (before Photography 139) and start publishing a few out of a different folder every week. If I can stay disciplined, then I will use Wednesdays for movie reviews. Then I can officially get most of my private life out of the blog and turn to the creation of a collective blog. It is there that I hope to start a collection of fictional short stories. It is a goal any way.

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Country Strong”

  1. I find Gwenyth Paltrow’s career to be enigmatic, too. I absolutely loved her in “Shakespeare in Love” and “Se7en” – but then she really kind of went off the grid. I think it’s probably partially due to having kids, but it seemed like it started even earlier than that.

  2. I think she also made some poor career decisions. But once you hit 35 and are a woman in Hollywood, you might as well be 70. Which is unfortunate, but it it the way that it is…

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